Rates of youth unemployment have skyrocketed in Conservative-held constituencies over the last five years, according to new research published this week.
Just a day before the coalition launches the biggest apprenticeship scheme this country has seen, new statistics also reveal that the largest number of newly out-of-work young people live in areas represented by Labour MPs.
When the Government announced that more than one million young people, aged 16 to 24, were out of work today in the UK – or one in five of all young people – Nick Clegg himself said the issue was akin to a “ticking time bomb.” His £1bn youth contract will be launched on Tuesday, designed to get young people ‘earning or learning,’ but a new analysis by Trade Union Congress (TUC), suggests that youth unemployment across Britain reflects a deeper political divide.
The number of new young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Conservative-led constituencies has surged by 85 per cent over the last five years, compared to a 61 per cent increase in Labour-held seats and a 67 per cent increase in areas represented by Liberal Democrats, the analysis found. North East Somerset, a constituency led by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, experienced the largest surge in the proportion of new claimants since 2007, with a 208 per cent increase.
But, this year has seen a change. Out of the fifty constituencies which have seen the biggest increase in young people claiming JSA between February 2011 and 2012, more than four fifths are represented by Labour.
Bradford topped the list, with three constituencies present in the top 15; together, they had more than 1,000 extra young people claiming benefits than the year before. Derby South, Knowlesley, in Merseyside and Leeds Central came in close behind, with cities like Nottingham, Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool displaying some of the largest increases in the numbers of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming benefits.
Conversely, of the 44 constituencies where claimant figures stayed the same, or went down, 34 were Conservative or Liberal Democrat-held seats. Cabinet office minister, Francis Maude, minister for public health, Anne Milton, and treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, all represent constituencies where the number of youth claimants has fallen in the last year.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, said: “In the last year alone, an average of 100 more youngsters have joined dole queues in every parliamentary constituency across Britain. But the situation is far worse in cities such as Bradford and Liverpool, where fears of losing a generation to unemployment and under-achievement are very real,” he said. “This crisis may be felt less in the constituencies of coalition ministers but that doesn’t let them off the hook in dealing with youth unemployment.”
Barber added that the Youth Contract “does not go far enough to even make up for the cuts [the coalition have] already made, let alone tackle our youth jobs crisis.” Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince’s Trust, said that their research showed that “unemployed young people are feeling less confident about the future than they were last year,” but added that she welcomed the coalition’s initiative. “It is vital that these young people do not turn from being unemployed to unemployable,” she said.
The Government scheme includes a wage subsidy of £2,275 for firms who take on 18 to 24-year-olds under the Work Programme and a £126m scheme to get 16 and 17-year-olds back into employment or work. A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson, said: “Tackling youth unemployment is an absolute priority for this Government. We want to help young people find sustainable jobs that will set them up for the future.” He added that the contract would provide nearly half a million opportunities for young people.