Significant increase in number of 16-18 year-olds not in work or school

While youth unemployment figures have fallen slightly overall, those under the age of 25 are still three times less likely to be in a job or education

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Thursday 25 May 2017 12:21
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There are currently 134,000 16-18 year-olds in the UK not in work, training or education
There are currently 134,000 16-18 year-olds in the UK not in work, training or education

The number of 16-18 year-olds not in education, employment or training (Neet) has risen significantly in the past year, latest government statistics show.

While overall youth unemployment has fallen slightly – by 0.8 per cent on last year – the figures suggest the 16-18 age group is being neglected when it comes to careers advice and training opportunities, experts have warned.

More than seven per cent of this specific demographic are now classed as Neet – equivalent to 134,000 people.

The number of 16-18 year-olds who are not in education or training (NET) has also risen by more than two percentage point to 15.5 per cent – a figure the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said was “significant”.

Responding to the figures, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Association (ESRA) suggested the government was in denial about a “crisis” in youth unemployment.

“Things have been going in the right direction, slowly, but there’s still a big employment gap,” she told The Independent.

“You are still three times more likely to be unemployed if you are under 25 than the rest of the general population.”

While the overall UK unemployment rate is currently at 4.6 per cent, the figure for 19-24 year-olds alone sits at 12.7 per cent.

A contributing factor, she said, was that for the first time in decades, the Government has no dedicated youth employment programme in place.

“Not enough is being done,” Ms McHugh said. “You might be lucky, you might live in an area where there are local programmes running by charities such as Barnardo’s and the Prince’s Trust, but there isn’t a national government coordinated response to general youth unemployment.

“Central Government just do not see youth unemployment as a crisis. But actually, it's been a big problem for a long, long time and that has been the case since before the economic crash.”

For the first time last year, children coming to the end of their GCSEs were legally required to stay on in some form of education or training until the age of 18.

According to the ONS, 42 per cent of all young people aged 16-24 in the UK who classed as Neet were looking for work and available for work and therefore classified as unemployed.

The rest were either not looking for work, unavailable for work and classified as economically inactive.

Brett Wigdortz, CEO and Founder of Teach First highlighted that children from disadvantaged backgrounds were the most likely to miss out on job opportunities or be encouraged to apply for apprenticeships or further courses.

“We know that poorer teenagers are far more likely to be unemployed or not learning compared to teenagers from wealthier families,” he said.

“Poorer young people are constantly faced with hurdles to social mobility that simply don’t exist for others.

“In the wake of Brexit, there is more need than ever before to ensure our country’s skills needs are met by home-grown talent. Therefore, ensuring no young person ends up NEET is not simply a matter of fairness, it is an economic imperative.

“This is why we have called upon the next government to put improving social mobility and education at the heart of their agenda. It is only when every child, whatever their background, is given the same chance to reach their full potential that we can truly compete in a post-Brexit world.”

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