The vicious cycle of youth unemployment

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Statistics released today show unemployment has fallen again overall, down to 7%, which is of course welcome news. But if you’re young, the picture is not so rosy. Despite dropping a little, youth unemployment remains worryingly high, with 20% of 16-24 year olds unemployed.

This morning a 23 year old woman, Rachel Lowe, spoke out on BBC radio about the barriers she has faced to seeking work. Despite leaving school with good grades and securing a series of good admin jobs, she became unemployed 8 months ago and has applied for more than 500 jobs since, with no success. She’s now had to move back home to make ends meet.

Rachel now counts as one of the NEETs – people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training. But while the mainstream media often characterises NEETs as lazy or feckless – ‘choosing a life of benefits’ – Rachel’s story shows this stereotype is far from the reality.

Rachel has been doing everything right. She tailors her applications for each job, she’s signed up with 7 or 8 recruitment agencies, she’s done volunteer work to build her skills – but it’s getting her nowhere. The rejections are often down to not having enough experience, but as Rachel said, how can you get experience if no one will give you a job?

Our report, The Real Story, showed that the scarring effect of youth unemployment is well-evidenced. Rachel described candidly the vicious circle it’s all too easy to get trapped in – rejection letters knocking confidence which makes you feel less competent, which in turn makes you less likely to get work. It’s clear that being unemployed when you’re young has a huge impact on both your mental health and your future job prospects.

Young Women’s Trust wants all young women to be financially independent and emotionally resilient. The employment statistics out today – coupled with figures showing that in the past 5 years there’s been persistently 100,000 more young women who are NEET than young men – show this is still far from the reality for many. Young women also tend to stay NEET for longer than young men, meaning they are more likely to live on low wages or in poverty for the rest of their lives.

Young Women’s Trust wants to understand why so many young women are trapped out of earning or learning. Soon we’ll be launching a major new piece of work looking into how to reduce the impact of being NEET on young women’s lives. We are keen to identify the solutions so young women like Rachel can find the quality, sustainable work they need to secure their futures.

Watch this space to find out more.