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12 September 2012

Why have the young been left out of the employment rise?

A puzzle.

By Martha Gill

Some interesting symmetry in the unemployment figures today: overall unemployment dropped by 7,000 over the last quarter, but youth unemployment – the number of people out of work aged 16 to 25 – rose by exactly the same amount.

The puzzle of unemployment falling at all in a recession is often explained by the rise of part-time workers – doing the kind of “jobs” which shift them into the employed category, but provide them with little else in terms of security, predictable hours, or sufficient pay.

But if this is true, it disqualifies some of the main explainers for youth unemployment – that risk-averse employees refuse to budge from existing jobs, and that cash-strapped companies are unable to hire. If fluid shift-work with fast turn-overs and unpredicable hours is the reason for the unemployment drop, you would expect the young to be hired at an equal, if not higher level to the less time-flexible old.

It remains a mystery – and according to a report released last week by the International Labour Organisation, the the number of young people out of work will continue rising over the next five years, predicted to reach almost 13 per cent by 2017, with faltering expectations that some of them will ever make it into the job market.

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