So what does the Autumn Statement mean?
“I really don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years’ time because it is difficult to see into the future if you are not really starting out now”. This is a comment from Sonia, a young woman living in London who has been unemployed for 3 years.
In today’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor said “We’re not going to leave young people behind as the economy grows”. We're pleased that the Chancellor has stated his commitment to ensuring that young people are not disadvantaged. Unemployment amongst young people is still much higher than the national average- 22% compared to 8%. And our recent polling also showed that 44% of young women are filled with dread about household finances.
We're particularly concerned about young women who spend their early working lives on low or no pay as they are more likely than young men to remain on low pay throughout their lives. In ‘The Real Story’ we reported how moving in and out of short term, low skilled, low paid work has a ‘scarring’ effect on young people– resulting in a cycle of reduced wages and a greater chance of being unemployed again.
We want young women to have the opportunity be supported into good, well paid jobs. And with 100,000 more young women not in Employment Education or Training (NEET) than young men we know there is a lot more to be done to achieve this. We welcome the emphasis on further training for 18-21 year olds. But as over 20% of young women are NEET because of caring responsibilities we hope that any compulsory training is backed up with appropriate childcare provision or offered flexibly to meet the needs of the young women who could benefit the most from this . The same applies for apprenticeships- funding for or an extra 20,000 higher apprenticeships over the next two years is fantastic news but we need to see flexible apprenticeship placements offered across all sectors.
And whilst abolishing National Insurance Contributions may be a welcome incentive for employers to take on more young workers the devil will be in the detail. We hope that this doesn’t leave young women frozen out of benefit entitlements further down the line.
Young women like Sonia are determined to work hard – after leaving school she went to college and qualified as a nursery nurse but has since been unable to find a job. Any job. She doesn’t receive enough money to be able to live independently so for the last 6 years she has been living in hostels or staying on different friends’ floors or sofas. Sonia needs the right opportunities and the right support to be financially independent.