Letter: Counting youth unemployment

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From Mr Phillip Oppenheim, MP

Sir: I have never, as Ken Coates claims (Letters, 28 March), denied that unemployment among young people is a problem. Rather, I was questioning his extraordinary claim that the unemployment figures were "polluted" because they contained fewer young people and pointing out that this was significantly due to the growth in higher education.

While I do not deny the problem of unemployment among the young, Mr Coates should in turn acknowledge that our record in this area is rather better than the EU as a whole. According to the internationally standard ILO- based definition, UK youth unemployment is 16.5 per cent, compared with 19.2 per cent in Belgium, 23 per cent in France and 38 per cent in Spain - all countries, incidentally, which have a national minimum wage.

I will have more respect for the views of Mr Coates and the Labour Party on youth unemployment when they have the courage to tell us at what level they will set the minimum wage, rather than glibly talking about the need to place a floor under low pay while stating that they won't make clear what the cost will be until after the election. After all, the TUC itself said only last week: "No campaign on the minimum wage will carry real weight unless it clearly states what impact it would have on unemployment."

Yours faithfully,

PHILLIP OPPENHEIM

Under-Secretary of State

Department of Employment

London, SW1

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