Young people increasingly struggle to move out of insecure work

The rising number of gig-economy roles has prompted concerns about insecure work in recent years.
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It is becoming harder for younger workers in insecure or temporary jobs to move into “good quality” permanent work, a report has claimed.

According to the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) about 20% of people aged 18 to 24 are in temporary employment because they cannot find a permanent job, especially those in routine or manual occupations.

Its Young People’s Future Health inquiry report found that although temporary employment suited some young people as it enabled them to fit work around education or childcare, for example, there was evidence of “one-sided” flexibility in employment contracts, where employers can set and vary terms and conditions and workers have only limited redress.

“Quality of work also does not just affect work alone,” the report said. “Whether someone is able to rely on a stable income affects their ability to access housing. It can affect their personal relationships with family and friends, and their relationship with their wider community.”

Casual work, seasonal work and zero hours contracts were the most frequent examples of precarious work young people experienced. These roles left young people unable to plan for their future and affected their mental health.

Around a third of routine and manual 18 to 24 year old workers are working shifts most of the time, whereas less than 17% of those in higher managerial jobs worked shifts.

Just over one third of young people worked part time (which the report considered a form of precarious work) compared with a quarter of older workers, with higher rates of part-time working among this age group in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Young white people had the lowest levels of part-time work among all ethnicities, which the report suggested could be the result of discrimination in the labour market.

Older workers who were in some sort of temporary work were most likely to have a fixed contract whereas young workers were equally likely to have a temporary contract or to be employed in casual work, found the report. Young people were more likely to be in non-permanent work compared with older workers with agency work more common among younger workers.

Figures for the report came from an analysis of Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey data and qualitative research among focus groups was undertaken.

It made several recommendations to improve employment outcomes for 18-24 year olds, including:

  • Encouraging more areas to adopt, and employers to sign up to, “good work” charters that set out best practice in recruitment, employment conditions, training and development, and workplace support
  • “Youth proofing” wider government measures to improve the quality of work, so that young people get the benefits of these – including the Disability Confident Scheme, Race at Work Charter, the Good Work Plan and any future reforms on occupational health
  • Encouraging the public sector to lead by example in offering better opportunities for younger employees
  • Exploring targeted “intermediate labour markets” for the most disadvantaged young people – creating high quality, transitional jobs with training and support, that can act as a stepping stone to good work.

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