Nearly one in 10 out of work young people never intend to start working

Young men
Young men

Nearly one in 10 unemployed or currently studying young people never intend to start working, a survey has found.

Young people are losing hope in what they see as a “hostile labour market” which requires skills they do not have, researchers suggested, after a poll found that nine per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 who are currently studying or unemployed said they do not plan to start working.

The poll of 5,000 people indicates that as many as 227,000 young people across the UK do not ever intend to get a job, according to the research by Opinium for City and Guilds, the skills development organisation.

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City and Guilds, said: “We can’t keep blaming the pandemic for the issues facing today’s youth.

“High youth unemployment has been an issue for more than a decade and the pandemic was just another challenge heaped onto an already creaking system that makes it incredibly difficult for young people to convert their aspirations into good jobs.”

Youth overrepresented in unemployment

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, 12.5 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds are classified as neither in work nor studying. The age group is overrepresented in unemployment, with the national unemployment rate at just 3.6 per cent.

Economists have warned that the same age group is likely to be hardest hit when it comes to employment opportunities as the UK heads back into a period of recession.

The Opinium survey also found that 30 per cent of young people do not think they will ever be able to achieve their career ambitions. This is highest amongst those who are currently not working, at 35 per cent, and those who have faced difficulties in their early lives, such as those who have been in the prison system, have been a refugee, or been through the care system.

The research found a mismatch between career aspirations of young people and job supply. Careers in arts, entertainment and recreation were among the most popular, with 15 per cent of young people wanting to work in those sectors. However, they only account for two per cent of UK jobs.

The next most popular industries to work in were human health and social care, and education, where there is higher demand for workers.

Young cohort ‘lack direction’

The research suggested that young people in the UK have already faced significant adversity, with 38 per cent of respondents saying they have received free school meals.

Ms Donnelly said: “Not only are they some of the worst affected by Covid-19, but they are starting out in their careers – and lives – after experiencing decades of austerity, which impacted education and public services, and against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, soaring inflation and an impending recession.”

Three quarters of young people said they expected to be earning over £30,000 in a decade’s time. Some 58 per cent of young men said they expected to reach that milestone in five years’ time, compared to 49 per cent of young women.

Andy Durman, an economist at Lightcast, the labour market analytics company, said: “What we’re seeing is a young cohort most of whom are ready and willing to upskill or retrain to improve their career opportunities, but who lack direction and information on the realities of the labour market, whether it be in terms of job availability, potential salaries, or the sorts of skills they could look to acquire to make them more employable.”

He added: “As the economic situation becomes increasingly precarious, with a perfect storm of inflation, recession and potential unemployment coming upon us, the best response we can give young people is better insights into the realities of the labour market – whether that’s around the jobs available in their area, realistic salary expectations or helping them to understand the skills they need to do to start or progress their career and advance their prospects.”

Robert Halfon, the skills minister, said: “Equipping young people, no matter their background, with the skills they need to climb the ladder of opportunity is a priority for this government...The proportion of 18–24-year-olds not in education, employment or training remains the lowest on record but there is more we need to do.”