Unemployment among 16-24 year olds in the UK doubled in the decade to 2012 to over 1.2 million, but has recently fallen back to 625,000 − pre-financial crisis levels. But young people aged 16−24 are still three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population – 14.4% compared to 5.7% for the population as a whole.
There is also real concern about the quality of many of the jobs available to young people. Zero-hours contracts, and graduates taking up non-graduate jobs, calls their long-term viability into question. Long-term job tenure has fallen by 25% since 1975, and the percentage of jobs now performed as part-time labour has risen correspondingly.
Many of the old entry-level jobs have now been replaced by machines and technology, and job-seekers entering the labour market are now also having to compete with increasing numbers of older workers who want to – or have to – take jobs after traditional retirement age.
For school-leavers and graduates, the pressure to undertake no-pay internships has intensified, with a direct impact on social mobility – as only the wealthy can work for free.
Addressing the critical problems of youth unemployment requires concerted policy initiatives and investment from those who have the power to do something about it – politicians and employers of the older generations. For this reason alone employment can be seen as an intergenerational issue. Failure to address it equitably could be felt by many generations to come.