The huge disparity in youth unemployment rates across the UK has been laid bare by a new report that found over a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds in Bradford, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Wolverhampton are now unemployed.
The study commissioned by the accountancy firm EY found youth unemployment rates range from 18.3% in north-east England to 11.2% in the east of England. Coventry had one of the lowest youth unemployment rates out of the 48 UK cities reviewed, at just 8.2%.
The study found youth unemployment rates vary far more around the country than overall rates of employment.
Young people find it significantly harder to find work than their older peers in the east Midlands, where Leicester’s 23.6% youth unemployment rate was more than double the average for all workers.
Youth employment levels declined by 166,000 from 2004 to 2015, the report found, with the biggest fall – 28% – seen in the manufacturing sector over the same period. In the last decade, the construction, financial and business sectors have also reduced their employment of young people – those aged under 24.
The two sectors that currently employ the highest proportions of young people – hotels and restaurants – are still set to grow, researchers concluded. It forecasts that between 2015 and 2030 the UK’s employment in these areas will grow by an average of 0.4% a year, meaning more roles.
Mark Gregory, EY’s chief economist, said: “Youth unemployment rates have fallen from the peaks we saw during the recession, when 40% of the UK’s 16- to 17-year-olds were facing unemployment. However, a stubbornly high number of young people remain excluded from the labour market, which could be further exacerbated by a period of weaker economic growth in these uncertain times ahead. History has shown us that young people are more exposed to economic volatility and industry restructuring than the population as a whole.”
He said the skills agenda is fast becoming one of the biggest priorities for UK business, with Brexit also likely to impose some restrictions to the free movement of labour in the future.
“It has never been more important to ensure the UK has the right mix of skills and talent, both nationally and locally, and young people are core to this,” he said.
While youth unemployment in the UK compares relatively well with that in most other countries in Europe, the UK rate is almost double that in Germany. Youth unemployment rates seen in France, Italy and Spain reach almost 50%.
Maryanne Matthews, chief executive of EY Foundation, an independent UK charity set up to help young people who face barriers in the labour market, said: “It is imperative that UK employers open their doors to invest in developing the skills of young people. By offering paid work experience opportunities to young people, this could lead to jobs in the future, reduce unemployment rates and help to address the UK skills gap. The more that employers play an active role in developing young people, the more we can help every young person to have better working prospects now and in the future.”
Young people’s debts
Young people are building up debt and worrying about money in their first few years of adult life, but far too few are seeking advice when they fall behind, according to research by National Debtline, which is run by the Money Advice Trust.
The charity’s report, Borrowed Years, reveals that 18- to 24-year-olds are building up significant debts at a relatively early age and suffering widespread money worries, despite most trying to budget and actively manage their personal finances. It found that 37% are already in debt, owing an average of just under £3,000 which excludes any student loans or mortgages. Over half of adults under 25 report that they regularly worry about money, with 21% admitting they lose sleep as a result.
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