Large drop in young jobless total, official data shows

By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News

image copyrightPA
image captionYoung people in England are now meant to stay in education or training until they are at least 17

The number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (Neet) has fallen, according to two sets of official figures.

UK-wide figures from the Office of National Statistics show 975,000 young people were Neet in the first quarter of 2014, down 118,000 on last year.

Data from two government departments shows a larger drop of 135,000 to 774,000 young people, just for England.

The government said its economic policy was "securing young people's future".

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) says the percentage of all 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK who were Neet in the three months to the end of March was 13.5%, down 1.6 percentage points from a year earlier.

Separate figures for England, from the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, show that in the same period 13.1% of 16- to 24-year-olds were Neet, down two percentage points on last year and the lowest for this age group since 2005.

A government spokesman said disparity between the two sets of figures was due to different ways of recording age.

School leavers

Government figures also show that in the first quarter of this year some 122,000 16- to 18-year-olds in England 122,000 were Neet, down 29,000 on the same period last year.

This was a fall of 1.5 percentage points to 6.7%, the lowest proportion since comparable data began in 2001, the government said.

It added that in England some 94.2% of 16- and 17-year-olds were participating in education and training - the highest proportion since consistent records began in 2001.

The ONS figures show that UK-wide some 53,000 16- and 17-year-olds were Neet, down 23,000 from a year earlier.

Ton Dolphin, chief economist for the centre-left think tank IPPR, warned that "the proportion of young people who are Neet is more than twice as high in the UK as in the European countries with the lowest rates".

He said the strengthening labour market was making it easier for young people to find work in the UK but warned that without government action a "structural shift in the labour market against young people" was likely to leave the number of Neets at an "unacceptably high level".

He warned that compared with other European countries, the UK system for workplace-based vocational education and training was "some way from the best" and urged the government to work to improve it.

'Lost generation'

Lizzie Crowley, of Lancaster University's Work Foundation, said the government should do more to help young people in the worst affected areas where many found themselves Neet for over a year and those who found part-time work often felt "underemployed".

"Whilst the latest data shows improving national figures, it masks the dire situation facing young people in cities such as Grimsby, Bradford and Wakefield where around a quarter of young people are not in education, employment or training", said Ms Crowley.

Chris Jones, chief executive of the vocational training group City & Guilds, called for a stronger, skills-based curriculum and better careers advice.

Too many young people are still "slipping through the cracks... creating a lost generation of talent", said Mr Jones.

A DfE spokesman said: "The figures released today show the progress being made to ensure that all young people are equipped with the skills that allow them to begin productive and prosperous careers.

"Every young person should be given the chance to reach their potential, whether that is through studying or training, embarking on an apprenticeship or traineeship or entering the world of work.

"Today's figures show that more and more young people that were previously held back from reaching their full potential are now in work or developing skills that will allow them to become valued employees."

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