The rise and rise of the Neets

Nearly a million young people are not in education, work or training, according to new Department fo

The number of young people not in education, work or training has now reached 938,000, according to figures released today by the Department for Education. The so-called "Neets" amount to 15.6 per cent of all 16-to-24-year-olds. The think tank Demos has warned that the number could reach 1.2 million within the next five years.

The depressing news should come as no surprise to readers of the New Statesman. Professor David Blanchflower has written consistently on the topic for the past two years. In last week's magazine, he explored the root causes of the jobless generation.

The main explanation for rising youth unemployment between 2000 and 2008 is on the supply side. The number of youngsters between 16 and 24 increased from about 6.26 million in January 2000 to 7.36 million in June 2009. It fell back slightly in November 2010, to 7.34 million.

Elsewhere in the issue, Sophie Elmhirst headed to Brownhills, near Wolverhampton, in one of the worst-affected areas, to find out what life is like for members of the "lost generation".

Today, more than one in five people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are looking for a job cannot find one. On the high street, a long strip of shops (Lidl, Tesco, Greggs, Nails 4 U, Value 4 Pound, Save-N-Save) is broken up by the squat Brownhills Excelsior Spiritualist Church; next to it is the jobcentre. Outside, leaning against the railings and listening to music, are Jade, 18, and Chrystal, 20. They laugh when I ask them how their job-hunt is going. "It's crap," Jade says. "There's nothing there." At college, she trained to be a nurse and Chrystal to be a mental health worker, but neither can find employment. Jade, who has been jobless for six months, comes to the jobcentre every two weeks to sign on and look for work.

The pair go wherever they can to ask for work. They travel by bus to Wolverhampton, Walsall and Birmingham. They go to shops and offices, dropping off their CVs, but people tell them that they are too young or that they don't have any experience. But they can't get experience because they can't get the work.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.