UK Lags Behind Major Economies On Youth Unemployment

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UK Parliament - government could imporve youth unemployment polices.


The United Kingdom has experienced the fastest rise in youth unemployment of any country in the G8 since the start of the Great Recession.

The UK now has the third worst levels in the OECD, with only Spain and Greece experiencing higher levels, according to a new report published in January 2013 by London-based The Work Foundation.

The report looks at youth unemployment internationally. The report highlights policies in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, all of which have had consistently low youth unemployment rates despite the economic downturn.

The report argues that the UK’s youth unemployment problem cannot be attributed solely to the recession. Other major economies have consistently outperformed the UK in keeping youth unemployment low.

Youth Unemployment: International Lessons

The report examines other countries best practices and makes recommendations about how the UK can improve its response to youth unemployment.

  • From Germany, the report makes recommendations for the UK apprenticeship system, calling for greater employer engagement and urging the government to push for all large employers to sign an agreement to offer places, with a widening of the model to include more occupations and greater academic content.
  • From Denmark, the report calls for the government to focus on early intervention and a ‘education first’ approach for young unemployed people without qualifications. Policy should also encourage more opportunities for private sector on-the-job training, which is likely to have more long-term benefits compared to unpaid work experience.
  • From Australia, the report raises major concerns about work-for-your-dole schemes, with the evidence showing them to be largely ineffective at getting young people into employment. It warns that while voluntary schemes can have a small positive impact, forcing people to take part in schemes – such as the government’s Day One Support work experience program – can actually reduce a person’s chances of getting into work.

In many other developed nations, youth unemployment has remained low despite the global downturn,” said Lizzie Crowley, the report’s author. “However, in the UK youth unemployment as a proportion of 15 -24 year olds has increased at a faster rate over the course of the recession than both the European and OECD averages.”

While the reasons for this are complex, it’s clear that the UK can learn from the experiences of nations that have kept youth unemployment low, Crowley said.

“The government should focus on those policies that have been shown to work, cherry-picking the best responses from other countries and adapting them to the needs of the UK labor market,” Crowley said.

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