Young Professional

Youth Unemployment

The youth unemployment landscape in the UK remains a growing problem for UK employers, educators and our young people.

  • Youth unemployment has been an escalating problem in the UK since 2005, with the most recent rises directly attributable to issues of the economy
  • Persistent youth unemployment has been embedded in our system over decades
  • Unemployment while young is linked to long-term reductions in wages, increased chances of subsequent periods of unemployment, and poorer health outcomes.
  • High levels of youth unemployment also have wider social and economic costs. The cost of youth unemployment over the next decade has been estimated at £28 billion
  • “With youth unemployment nearing 1 million, supporting young people into jobs – and sustainable jobs in particular – must be a foremost priority if the UK is to avoid a lost generation.” CBI
  • UK businesses tell us they struggle to recruit young, work-ready staff
  • A generation of young people lost to unemployment means an inadequate talent pool for the needs of our businesses as the economy recovers

Find out more about our youth employment expert work with Youth Friendly Employers and with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Employment.

What causes youth unemployment?

As mentioned youth unemployment has been growing since 2005 so the recession and economy bear only some of the blame for high youth unemployment levels.

Other causes such as those listed below have been cited in reports such as; Youth Unemployment: cyclical and structural concerns (CPS), Youth unemployment: the crisis we cannot afford (ACEVO), The Youth Unemployment Challenge (UKCES) to name a few.

Lack of jobs Gaps between education and employment
Young people lack skills needed for work Employers prefer to work with experienced staff
Credentialism Young people’s expectations
Lack of qualifications or appropriate qualifications Lack of accurate and engaging careers information
Rise in retirement age Employment legislation
Recruitment Methods Employers perceptions of young people
Poor vocational options Lack of quality vocational pathways
Welfare Workfare

Why do we care?

The threat of a “lost generation” for some is quite real although according to Prof. Paul Gregg this is an exaggerated term, what we do know is that there are significant consequences.

Experiencing unemployment in youth can lead to emotional problems and can also reduce a person’s life long earning/career potential, it creates further inequalities particularly between communities, and the financial costs of supporting unemployment; welfare and medical support reach into billions.

Then consider the cost to business and to the prosperity of the UK, imagine trying to recruit from a large pool of applicants with little or no work experience, where will the next generation of leaders and innovators come from? To compete in the ever changing world economy we need to have a bright, educated and skilled workforce.

Finally with nearly 1 million young people unemployed, that is approximately 1 in 5 young people it is likely that we will all know someone in our network who will be affected by this problem, not least those still in education yet to try to gain employment.

Can youth unemployment be fixed?

Yes, we believe so. Already there are thousands of brilliant youth engagement activities and initiatives happening across the UK. 1 in 4 employers are very engaged with youth activities from talking in schools through to taking on apprentices and employing graduates.

But there is more that can be done; we believe the solutions to youth unemployment are:

  • Increase employer support
  • Reduce employment legislation that creates a barrier for employers to work with young people
  • Help employers to recognise the value of skills and behaviours as well as academic criteria
  • Ensure education prioritises employability skills and careers learning for young people as well as quality academia
  • Improve the quality and relevance of vocational routes and qualifications
  • Ensure Careers Education is aligned with the needs of the economy, local labour market information and is motivating and inspirational
  • Help young people to value work of all entry levels (raising aspirations is important but there are many jobs that then get overlooked)
  • Create a welfare system that supports young people to find employment or training opportunities
  • Improve the coordination of all of the youth engagement activities so that information can be shared, and so that young people will benefit from collaboration/improved signposting

So what benefits to an individual or organisation are there to supporting young people into employment?

  • Investment now in youth employment and engagement will support the needs of a competitive and successful UK economy for years to come
  • Companies that are seen to respond to the challenge of youth unemployment will gain a competitive edge as consumers exercise choices in favour of companies with positive social values
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Building own talent pool & knowledge transfer from ageing workforce
  • Young people bring creativity, innovation, flexibility, high energy and an understanding of new and emerging technologies
  • There is evidence that by recruiting and investing in young people encourages loyalty and reduces attrition
  • Workforce diversity
  • Reduced cost – lower recruitment and wage costs
  • Existing staff training and development – utilising existing staff to train, mentor, develop and support new younger staff

We have provided a list of reports and research documents around youth unemployment for your further research into this topic. If, however, you would like to talk to us in more detail, please contact

Further youth unemployment research

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