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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Why the Labour rebels have delayed their leadership challenge

MPs hope that Jeremy Corbyn may yet resign, while Owen Smith is competing with Angela Eagle to be the candidate.

The Eagle has hovered but not yet landed. Yesterday evening Angela Eagle's team briefed that she would launch her leadership challenge at 3pm today. A senior MP told me: "the overwhelming view of the PLP is that she is the one to unite Labour." But by this lunchtime it had become clear that Eagle wouldn't declare today.

The delay is partly due to the hope that Jeremy Corbyn may yet be persuaded to resign. Four members of his shadow cabinet - Clive Lewis, Rachel Maskell, Cat Smith and Andy McDonald - were said by sources to want the Labour leader to stand down. When they denied that this was the case, I was told: "Then they're lying to their colleagues". There is also increasing speculation that Corbyn has come close to departing. "JC was five minutes away from resigning yesterday," an insider said. "But Seumas [Milne] torpedoed the discussions he was having with Tom Watson." 

Some speak of a potential deal under which Corbyn would resign in return for a guarantee that an ally, such as John McDonnell or Lewis, would make the ballot. But others say there is not now, never has there ever been, any prospect of Corbyn departing. "The obligation he feels to his supporters is what sustains him," a senior ally told me. Corbyn's supporters, who are confident they can win a new leadership contest, were cheered by Eagle's delay. "The fact even Angela isn't sure she should be leader is telling, JC hasn't wavered once," a source said. But her supporters say she is merely waiting for him to "do the decent thing". 

Another reason for the postponement is a rival bid by Owen Smith. Like Eagle, the former shadow work and pensions secrtary is said to have collected the 51 MP/MEP nominations required to stand. Smith, who first revealed his leadership ambitions to me in an interview in January, is regarded by some as the stronger candidate. His supporters fear that Eagle's votes in favour of the Iraq war and Syria air strikes (which Smith opposed) would be fatal to her bid. 

On one point Labour MPs are agreed: there must be just one "unity candidate". But after today's delay, a challenger may not be agreed until Monday. In the meantime, the rebels' faint hope that Corbyn may depart endures. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.