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.
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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