Telling the whole story on youth unemployment

Monday 30 June 2014

Here at Young Women’s Trust we are delighted that the The Journey to Work, the latest report from the Centre for Social Justice, has focused attention on the challenges facing young people who are not earning or learning.  We are particularly pleased that there is a focus on the structural element of youth unemployment.  We would be very keen to see some of the recommendations within the report, being implemented.

However, as with so many reports about youth unemployment, our concern is that the recommendations set out in the report will not work effectively because they neither adequately address the complexity of the issue in hand nor the different challenges faced by young women and young men.

So few of these reports start by hearing from young people why they are in the situation they are in.  Including young people in the development of policy making which is about them is often a good place to start.

And, as with this latest report from the Centre for Social Justice, almost none set out clear solutions based on an understanding of the role of gender in the causes and consequences of young people’s unemployment.  The CSJ rightly draw attention to the distinction between ‘unemployed’ and ‘economically inactive’ – young women are more likely to be in the latter category than young men and this is for complex reasons rather than simply because they are parents or carers. These reports need to shine a light on the complexities of the issue and the challenges that young women face who are neither earning nor learning.

There is much else in The Journey to Work for us to agree with; such as its recognition that unemployment can have a life-long impact on wages and mental health. But the impact on women can be greater and last longer.

We welcome any focus on the ongoing problem faced by young people who cannot access work, training or learning opportunities.  We particularly welcome solutions to the problem.  But for these to work it is essential that firstly the views of young people are part of the process and secondly that it is understood that what is needed for young women and young men may well be different because the challenges they face are often very different.