The Young Conservatives recently tweeted that youth unemployment had decreased by 44.2 per cent. While this sounds impressive, statistics can be misleading. If you are interested in finding out what is behind this particular statistic, read on.
How is unemployment defined?
Over the years, the way these statistics are calculated has changed. To be considered unemployed, a young person must not be ‘economically inactive’, which is defined as neither being in work nor actively seeking employment. Anyone currently enrolled as a full-time student is not counted, even if they work or would like to work part-time.
When did the decrease start?
The decrease in youth unemployment has been measured since the end of the last Labour government. The figure has therefore decreased since the coalition government was formed in 2010 and it is true that there are 44.2 per cent fewer young people categorised as unemployed since then.
Has the fall been steady?
Back in 2011, the youth unemployment rate increased to over one million. It has fallen since 2012 to reach the present level, with 2014 seeing the biggest decrease.
Why is unemployment falling?
It is now more common for young people to be economically inactive. This is a trend that increased quite sharply after 2010 and has continued despite the economic upturn. For those classified as NEETs (not in employment, education or training), economic activity is now more common than unemployment; in other words, more young people are doing things other than looking for a job or improving their skills through initiatives such as education and apprenticeships.
The downside of these statistics is that they have reversed since 2010. Back then, NEETs were more likely to be actively seeking work; now, they are more likely to be economically inactive.
Who are these NEETs? They are usually those who are looking after the family home or who are unable to work or study due to illness or disability. There is also an increased number of young people staying in full-time education. Having more full-time students and more people becoming economically inactive has had an impact on the employment statistics.
Who are the NEET EI?
Previously, there was a higher percentage of women in the NEET economically inactive (EI) category, primarily because young women were more likely to have caring responsibilities that took them out of the jobs market; now, this has changed – the NEET EI is now 68 per cent male.
Men tend to become economically inactive due to ill health or disability. The reason for the increase amongst men seems to be primarily from mental health conditions, which is a troubling increase. Those who are not caring or in poor health themselves are often trapped in economic inactivity due to a lack of education and training.
It is also worth noting that the implementation of the minimum wage has shrunk the job market for young people, who were traditionally in the lowest paid roles.
Simply put, there are more jobs but the picture is, as always, bigger.
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