Government urged to take action as youth unemployment tops one million

Employment groups have demanded that the Government take action on youth unemployment after figures released today showed that there are more than one million young people out of work in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data confirmed that youth unemployment had hit the one million mark, with 1.016 million young people currently out of work – a milestone that had been widely expected. The figure equates to 21.9% of people between 16 and 24 years old.

The ONS said that overall unemployment increased to 2.62 million in the period from July to September 2011, a rise of 129,000 on the previous three months and equal to 8.3% of the economically active population. According to the ONS, the unemployment rate is the highest since 1996 and the number of unemployed people is the highest since 1994.

The Government has been accused by the UK’s largest union, Unite, of condemning “a lost generation of young people” to the dole queue.

Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Government has created a lost generation of young people unable to gain a foothold on the employment ladder.

“Ministers need to create a land bridge of opportunity for young people – our youth unemployment rate is twice that of Germany. It is not only a personal tragedy for the young people concerned, but it is also a waste of talent and potential, so necessary for economic growth, and is sowing the seeds for a whole raft of future social problems.”

McCluskey continued: “The Government needs to adopt a twin-track policy – having more targeted measures to help young people into work, while at the same time, reversing the hardline austerity measures that have sucked the life out of the British economy. One way forward would be to ensure that a greater percentage of apprenticeships should go to those aged under 25.”

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, said: “These figures underline why we need urgent action to help our young people take their first steps in the labour market. A generation risks being scarred by the devastating effects of long-term unemployment.

“We are calling for action for jobs now, with a clear plan to get the UK working, focusing on our young people.

“The Chancellor should use his autumn statement to announce a Young Britain Credit, worth £1500, to encourage firms to take on an unemployed 16- to 24-year-old.

“We also need further steps to reform the benefits system to make work really pay and to foster better links between businesses and schools to boost the attractiveness of young people in the labour market.”

Carmen Watson, managing director of Pertemps Recruitment Partnership, said: “We are in danger of seeing an entire generation of young people that is falling through the holes in the system designed to create employment. It may be too early to expect to see the results of the Government’s Work Programme, which was introduced earlier this year, but, in the meantime, thousands more young people are becoming disaffected by the harsh and challenging conditions we’re seeing in the job market.”

The ONS figures also showed that total pay, including bonuses, rose by 2.3% year-on-year, which was down 0.4 percentage points on the three months to August 2011. Both the private and public sectors showed lower pay growth.

Regular pay excluding bonuses rose by 1.7% on one year earlier, down 0.1 percentage points on the three months to August 2011.

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