Short-term crisis, long-term problem?
Authors: Katy Jones
19 June 2012
Any period of unemployment while young can have a lasting negative impact on labour market experiences for a lifetime. But for the quarter of a million young people in the UK who have been out of work for more than a year the problem is even more serious. The longer a young person is out of work, education or training, the worse the long-term consequences for the individual and the economy.
Today we launch the first report of our ‘Missing Million’ programme - Short-term crisis - long-term problem? In it we investigate the problem of long-term youth unemployment and demonstrate how the issue has been getting worse for some time- whilst in recent years it has been exacerbated by the recession, this is a much longer term problem.
The long-term young unemployed are more likely to be young men and have low or no qualifications. A significant proportion of them do not claim benefits. This makes the government response all the more challenging as it means that these young people are often not coming into contact with the employment support system- the role of the third sector here is therefore crucial if we are to ensure that these young people are getting the support they need.
As part of the research we interviewed young people about their experiences of long term unemployment. We heard from them the challenges they faced as they struggled to navigate a difficult labour market- unsurprisingly this was particularly the case in more deprived local economies. Many of the young people interviewed felt that they were stuck in a Catch-22 situation- they had no work experience, but needed this experience to demonstrate to employers that they had the right skills.
The long-term youth unemployment problem necessitates a significant policy response. Whilst we welcome measures introduced by the government through the Youth Contract, we believe they are inadequate to tackle the scale of the long-term youth unemployment problem. The government needs to do more, and policy should focus on six key areas:
1. Improve national coordination- we recommend establishing a new Youth Employment Unit to work across government departments and that youth employment becomes a specified ministerial responsibility
2. Improve local coordination- more needs to be done locally to link what are too often fragmented services for young people
3. Guarantee part time jobs- this has a number of clear advantages, in particular around having time to spend on jobsearch and the support to do this
4. Bring more young people into the employment support system- the voluntary sector has an important role here and effective provision must be financially supported and ramped up
5. Address transport barriers- greater leverage should be used in contract and subsidy negotiations with transport providers to ensure that transport barriers to employment are removed
6. Focus on growth- the long-term solution is through greater employment growth which will enable the long-term unemployed to capitalise on the employability benefits of short-term schemes.
The Work Foundation will continue to investigate the youth unemployment challenge through our ‘Missing Million’ programme.
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