Expectations of 'grisly' jobless figures prompts call for action

 

The Government will face calls for urgent measures to tackle unemployment today amid expectations of "grisly" new figures showing that the youth jobless total has gone over a million.

Unions and youth campaign groups will warn that 16- to 24-year-olds are bearing the brunt of the UK's jobs "crisis".

Youth unemployment reached 991,000 last month, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992, and experts believe it is inevitable that the politically-sensitive one million mark will be breached today.

Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight forecast that the number of unemployed people claiming jobseeker's allowance will show a 25,000 rise for October, which would be an eighth successive monthly increase.

The total number of jobless, including those not eligible for jobseeker's allowance, will reach a 17-year high of almost 2.6 million, he said, adding: "A particularly grisly, sad and worrying development is likely to be that youth unemployment rose above one million in the three months to September.

"The very serious concern is that many of these youths will be out of work for an extended period given the persistently weak economy and current worrying outlook. This is fuelling talk of a lost generation of workers."

Centrepoint, a charity which helps homeless youngsters, said the Government should step up support for young people.

Chief executive Seyi Obakin said: "These latest unemployment figures confirm that young people across the country are bearing the brunt of the jobs crisis. Almost half of the homeless young people we support are not in education, employment or training, showing the risk of the huge financial and social costs of unemployment being borne by the most vulnerable in our society.

"The Government must come up with plans in the autumn statement to tackle this problem, starting with direct Government intervention to help create jobs and apprenticeships specifically for young people. The cost of youth unemployment is too big for us to fail."

The Prime Minister will host a breakfast with business leaders today to discuss youth unemployment, while other ministers were launching initiatives aimed at helping people into work.

John Cridland, director general of the CBI, who will attend the meeting with David Cameron, said: "With unemployment figures set to show yet another disappointing rise, we need action for jobs now.

"We'll be making the case strongly to the Prime Minister that job creation, especially for young people, must be a major plank of the autumn statement.

"We are calling for a new Young Britain Tax Credit to encourage employers to take on unemployed 16- to 24 year-olds to help them secure that all-important first step on the jobs ladder.

"Businesses are also ready to play their part, becoming ambassadors to inspire young people about the world of work, offering more apprenticeships, meaningful work experience and fostering better links with schools. There also needs to be further reform of the benefits system to make work really pay."

Business Secretary Vince Cable will host a summit on apprenticeships today and will announce measures including cash payments to smaller firms to help them take on a young apprentice.

The Government will offer employers with up to 50 staff an incentive payment of £1,500, with the aim of increasing the number of apprentices aged 16 to 24 by up to 20,000.

A spokesman for the Business Secretary said: "Vince is determined that the apprenticeship programme goes from strength to strength. We want more employers to take on an apprentice, especially small companies, and more young people to have the opportunity to realise their potential through completing a high quality apprenticeship."

However, Labour said the scheme was too little too late.

"With youth unemployment at record levels we need urgent action now," a party spokesman said.

"These small measures the Government is announcing suggest this out of touch Government does not understand the scale of the jobs crisis we face and the fact that one in five young people are looking for work."

An £80 million fund offering financial help and specialist mentoring to people who have been unemployed for more than six months and want to start their own business will be launched by Employment Minister Chris Grayling today.

Working Links, which delivers programmes to help get people back to work, urged the Government to consider new ways to tackle youth unemployment.

Commercial manager Matthew Freeman said: "Levels of youth unemployment have reached crisis point. With over a million young people out of work, we risk creating a lost generation of young Britons.

"Expanding the number of apprenticeships will undoubtedly help young people to find lasting work, but with such a backlog of unemployed young people, the Government must do even more.

"There are simply not enough apprenticeships available to tackle the huge queues of jobless young people."

Former foreign secretary David Miliband admitted that youth unemployment started to become an issue under the previous Labour government from about 2005, but said the problem had snowballed in the past year.

He told The Times: "You do need extraordinary measures if you are going to eat into long-term unemployment.

"In abnormal times, which you certainly have at the moment with a million young unemployed and 127,000 long-term unemployed, an interview preparation session of an hour is not going to substitute for experience in the workplace.

"When someone is unemployed for more than six months when they are a teenager, the chances they are going to be long-term unemployed as an adult is massively increased, which costs the country."

He added: "It's a timebomb under the financial forecasts of future chancellors of the Exchequer."

Mr Grayling told ITV's Daybreak the Government was doing everything it could to lower the levels of unemployment, but admitted that the task had been made more difficult by the crisis sweeping through the eurozone.

"Youth unemployment was falling four months ago and was below the level at the General Election but since then we have seen the impact of the European crisis which has left a cloud of uncertainty over many of our most important trading markets."

Mr Grayling said many firms were "reluctant" to hire new staff because of the instability, but hoped the new schemes being rolled out by the Coalition would change this.

The Employment Minister added: "It should always be a goal of the Government to get unemployment down and we will do everything we can to help the unemployed back into the workplace.

"What we are doing is trying to overcome the age-old problem of you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job."

PA

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