Getting back on track

By Sarah Keen 17 December 2009

Youth unemployment has hit a record high. The latest government figures, released yesterday, show that 952,000 young people aged 16–24 are currently out of work—the highest number since records began in 1992.

This number is also dangerously close to the one million mark, which the government is understandably keen to avoid. Memories from the 1980s still linger, when youth unemployment actually did hit one million, and continued to rise for several years after the recession ended. A deep and long-lasting ‘wage scar’ afflicted many of those who were unemployed for a year or more, affecting their job prospects for decades.

To prevent history repeating itself, the government has announced a scheme giving young people the guarantee of a job, training or work experience. It hopes this will lead to a fall in youth unemployment by the second half of next year. This would be an achievement, but it should not be forgotten that some young people will not bounce back or into jobs as easily as others.

Young people with serious obstacles to unemployment—drug abuse, caring responsibilities, low self-esteem—may need additional help. Our recent research looking at the issue of young people not in education, employment and training found that charities are often best-placed to do so. They employ a variety of approaches to help young people others whom others have struggled to reach, from social and emotional support to children in primary schools to intensive one-to-one support to young people already unemployed. By recognising that behind the headline statistic lie a multitude of individual experiences, charities have an important role to play in reducing the number of unemployed young people.