As the economy narrowly avoids a recession, and job vacancies fall, today’s (23rd February) ONS statistics reveal an alarming rise in young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
The number of young people who are NEET has risen to 788,000, which is a 13% increase in one year. This is troubling as the NEET level hasn’t been this high since December 2020. Within this group, 62% are inactive (not in work and not looking/unable to work) and 38% are unemployed (not in work and looking to work).
It is particularly worrying that these young people who are not in full-time education are increasingly further from the labour market. This is causing a significant gap amongst young people, between those in education and those out of education.
Barry Fletcher, CEO, Youth Futures Foundation said:
“The Covid generation deserves better. The alarming 13% year-on-year rise in young people who are not earning or learning risks long-term scarring effects. Increasing mental ill health needs to be addressed urgently, alongside joining up a fragmented employment support system.”
The Covid generation has endured a challenging period of economic disruption. Rising mental ill health is harming their labour market prospects and access to good quality work; two out of three young people who are economically inactive also have a common mental health disorder. The cost of living crisis is also hitting those who faced existing challenges. Action is need now to prevent the long-term scarring effects of being locked out of the labour market.
The current focus on the economic inactivity of the over-50s overlooks this untapped talent pool of young people. PwC’s 2022 Youth Employment Index, produced with Youth Futures Foundation, finds that the UK could increase its GDP by £38bn if it matched the NEET rate of 20-24 year olds in Germany.
It is unacceptable that nearly 13.6% of 18-24 year olds are not earning or learning. Our report found that there is a risk of generational progress grinding to a halt without sustained government support. It recommends the government should create new ‘green and clean’ job opportunities for young people through its ‘Levelling Up’ and ‘Net Zero Transition’ investments. Young people should be involved in co-designing services that support them, as well as the emphasis on inclusive and tailored support from employability services and employers to address the specific needs of groups with protected characteristics. Also, skills provision must be more closely matched to local labour market needs, with regional economic areas given more powers to design and shape their local provision.