The Prince steered clear of advocating compulsory youth conscription and 'workfare' programmes for the jobless. But periods of service to others and self-improvement courses ought to replace unemployment and even conventional work, he said.
The Prince of Wales, who was giving Cambridge's inaugural Global Security Lecture, launched by the university's multi-disciplinary Global Security Programme, went on: 'We live in a society where some people are fully employed and some are wholly unemployed. Should we perhaps try to get away from thinking in those terms?
'Ought we not to be examining ways of ensuring that all people - but particularly all young people - have a chance to serve others and the community, thereby improving their own prospects through the work they do?'
In future, many people would experience at least a short period of unemployment during their working lives - lifetime paid employment for all who wanted it was becoming increasingly elusive. He suggested that the concept of 'occupation' should expand to take in voluntary work and leisure 'involving activities which improve the quality of life around us - of others as well as ourselves'.
The Prince said: 'Even as the grip of the recession eases, experts tell us there is no certainty that unemployment will fall as far or as fast as we all wish it would.' Yet everyone deserved 'some status, some self-respect and the sense of personal security that comes from having a job'.
Britain had lost much of the sense of community and common purpose which reached a high point during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. 'Some of the institutions people most value today, including the National Health Service, were made possible by the intense sense of community at that time.
'In the name of progress and growth, people's homes were demolished wholesale; famous beauty spots and much-loved natural areas were disfigured or destroyed; well-meant slum-clearance schemes piled neighbours on top of each other in soulless tower-blocks, exchanging the street where everybody knew everybody for a vandalised lift and a dangerous graffiti-decorated concrete staircase.
'With the benefit of hindsight, it is easier to see that in those post-war years, while people grew so much richer, they lost . . . the unquantifiable sense of security provided by extended families, close-knit communities and the sense of belonging to and being part of a particular place.'