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6 January 2020

Lack of work experience harms long-term job prospects, think tank warns

A new report highlights “the death of the Saturday job” as just 25 per cent of the UK’s 16 and 17 year-olds work part- time. 

By Rohan Banerjee

The number of teenagers with part-time jobs has nearly halved over the past 20 years according to a new report.

The Resolution Foundation found that just a quarter of 16 and 17 year-olds in the United Kingdom were employed between 2017 and 2019 – dropping from 48 per cent between 1997 and 1999.

Fewer teenagers opting to pursue part-time work, the think tank speculated, could be down to more of them prioritising their studies, as educational reforms since 2013 have led to more people staying in full-time education for longer.

The Resolution Foundation also identified a sharp fall in the number of university and college students with a job. Undergraduates aged between 18 and 19, the report found, were 25 per cent less likely to be in work than they were between 2000 and 2003.

A lack of professional experience may leave young people ill-equipped for the world of work and the future pressures of adulthood, the Resolution Foundation’s research director, Laura Gardiner, suggested.

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“The rising number of people who have never had a paid job has been driven by the death of the teenage Saturday job and a wider turn away from earning while learning. With young people today expected to end their working lives at a later age than previous generations, it’s understandable that they want to start their working lives at a later age too…But this lack of work experience can create longer-term problems, particularly if they hit other life milestones like becoming a parent or ill-health before their careers have got off the ground.”

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The report also found that 8.2 per cent of people in the UK aged 16 to 64 – a total of approximately 3.4 million – had never done any form of paid work in their lives. But the tink tank distanced itself from “lazy interpretations related to work-shy Brits”, highlighting the multiple cuts to benefits provision in recent years.

Indeed, the majority of people who have never had a paid job – 60 per cent – were found to be students, while the most of the remainder were “economically inactive due to family caring reasons or sickness and disability.”

According to the report, a third of the UK’s currently unemployed population have never had a job, compared to a fifth in the late 1990s.