Young people will bear brunt of post-Covid unemployment crisis, report warns

30 March 2021, 07:25 | Updated: 3 April 2021, 06:53

Under-25s have accounted for three in five jobs lost during the coronavirus outbreak
Under-25s have accounted for three in five jobs lost during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Young people in Britain will increasingly bear the brunt of the unemployment crisis after suffering most from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has warned.

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, those aged 25 and under have accounted for three in five jobs lost, the Prince's Trust and the Learning and Work Institute report said.

It added that youth unemployment is expected to increase further as the economy recovers.

While some areas of the economy might start to recover, young workers are under-represented in these sectors, and the industries that typically employ them will be hit hardest in the long term, the report continued.

Longer-term structural changes in the labour market are likely to reduce job opportunities for young people without support to improve their skills, it was warned.

It was estimated that the economic cost of higher youth unemployment in terms of lost national output is forecast to be £5.9 billion this year, rising to £6.9 billion in 2022.

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The report finds disparities in the impact of the crisis on different groups of young people, raising concerns that the pandemic has, and will continue to, exacerbate pre-existing inequalities.

Demand for workers with lower-level qualifications is projected to fall in the short, medium and long term, raising concerns that the employment prospects of young people who lack higher level qualifications will be badly affected, the report said.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: "Young people have been at the forefront of the coronavirus jobs crisis. While we are hopefully slowly emerging from the worst of the pandemic, the legacy will be with us for years to come in the form of higher youth unemployment.

"This is not just bad for young people. It will have a huge hit on our economy and our public finances, and it risks a long-lasting scarring impact on those affected.

"If we are to tackle the looming youth jobs crisis, the government must work with partners to urgently roll out a Youth Guarantee to support young people to access a job, an apprenticeship, education, or a high-quality training opportunity."

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Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of The Prince's Trust, said: "This report is a stark warning of how the current economic crisis will have a scarring effect on young people, their earnings and prospects.

"We also know from 45 years' experience of working with young people that youth joblessness can impact self-esteem and mental health for years to come, if we fail to act.

"Government, employers and charities must work together to ensure that the young people who need the most support are not forgotten.

"They need the opportunities to upskill, retrain and access job opportunities, or we risk harming not only our young people's futures but the recovery of our economy."

A government spokesman said: "We are helping young people fight back from this pandemic by creating fresh opportunity fast.

"We have a Youth Offer in place which includes access to support from our Youth Hubs and Kickstart, which has already created 150,000 approved job placements.

"Through Skills Bootcamps, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, more apprenticeships and more traineeships, we are helping young people get the skills they need as we build back better."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: "Young people have been the face of the Conservatives' failure to manage the impacts of the pandemic, with spiralling unemployment hitting under-25s hardest.

"Successive Conservative governments have hollowed out the infrastructure needed for young people to train and gain new skills after the pandemic, with those from poorest backgrounds worst hit by declining opportunities in further education.

"The government is failing to live up to its rhetoric on the Kickstart Scheme and apprenticeships incentive which have created just a fraction of the promised opportunities."