The disproportionate impact of this pandemic on the youth jobs market presents us with a mammoth challenge; under 25 year-olds currently account for 46% of the overall fall in employment with those from ethnic minority backgrounds up to four times more likely to be out of work. Overall unemployment is predicted to reach 6% by the end of the year, but evidence based on previous recessions suggests that for young people, that figure could be three times higher, reaching nearly 20% by the end of 2021. It typically takes youth employment longer to recover to pre-recession levels, with those from marginalised backgrounds struggling the most. That is why we need long-term initiatives to support young people – but this budget has come up short.
- For those seeking work, we need an extension to the Kickstart scheme beyond December 2021 with a focus on the nearly 200,000 young people who have been out of work for six months or more and those furthest from the labour market. Employers need time to deliver their placements and we must avoid young people facing multiple cycles of placements with no clear pathway towards a quality job.
- The extension to the furlough scheme is welcome, but is essentially a sticking plaster. Young people account for 47% of those who have been furloughed and are more vulnerable to redundancy. We must ensure those young people who have been furloughed do not simply lose their job when the scheme ends, but have viable options and support.
- We support the increase in incentives for employers to take on apprentices. However, in recent years the number of apprenticeships for young people have fallen dramatically. The government’s focus should be to target participation in high-quality apprenticeships at young people facing disadvantage or discrimination who benefit from them the most.
- We also welcome the additional £123m investment in traineeships, but this funding should be used to ensure young people are accessing good quality opportunities that support them into further training, apprenticeships or jobs.
In June last year, the Prime Minister committed to an Opportunity Guarantee to ensure young people could access training, apprenticeships or quality jobs. We need the Government to deliver on that promise if we are to avoid a generation’s future blighted by the scarring effects of long-term unemployment.