Guarantee youth jobs to prevent ‘pandemic generation’ - report

A ‘youth guarantee’ should be a key element of a ‘Plan for Jobs’ to help the economy rebound from the effects of the coronavirus, a think tank has said.

The Learning and Work Institute (LWI) make the call in a new report Emergency Exit: How we get Britain back to work. Based on previous recessions, the LWI estimate that the number of 18-24 year olds not in education, employment or training could treble to one million in the next year, and the report’s authors warn that the crisis could create a ‘pandemic generation’ whose pay and job prospects would suffer long-term damage.

Under the LWI’s proposals the ‘youth guarantee’ would ensure that every young person has access to a job, an apprenticeship or an education or training opportunity. They propose a series of measures to achieve this. Educationally these include support for more young people to study to level 3, including more education places for 16-18 year olds and maintenance support for older groups through Universal Credit (UC). A new Youth Training Allowance for 18-20 year olds, and maintenance support for 18-24 year olds studying up to level 3 are also mooted.

The report also calls for more support to help unemployed young people to find work, such as a ‘Job Guarantee’ granting employers £8,500 to create additional six month jobs paid at minimum wage. These jobs would be targeted at young people who had been out of work for more than 9 months. An increase in apprenticeships for young people is also proposed, backed by measures such as allowing apprenticeship levy funds to pay up to half of the wage costs of 16-24 year old apprentices. Another suggestion is the introduction of an apprenticeship grant worth £4000 to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who recruit apprentices aged 16-24.  

As well as the ‘youth guarantee’, the LWI say that other planks of the government’s response to the economic effects of coronavirus should include major investments and incentives to create jobs more widely, and a significant expansion of help for people of all ages to find work, including 10,000 extra Jobcentre Plus work coaches.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the LWI and one of the report’s authors said: ‘The Government has taken unprecedented action to protect jobs and incomes during the crisis. Yet despite this, we’ve still seen the sharpest spike in joblessness on record, and we risk unemployment rising to levels last seen in the Great Depression. We need a ‘Plan for Jobs’ whose ambition matches the scale of the challenge by driving employment growth, guaranteeing young people work or training, and providing rapid employment support to the millions of people who now find themselves unemployed.’

Publication of the report coincided with the release of new figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed that the UK economy shrank by 20.4 per cent in April 2020, the first full month of ‘lockdown’. This is the largest monthly contraction since records began, and around three times greater than the contraction seen during the whole of the economic downturn caused by the financial crisis in 2008/9.

The LWI’s report follows a proposal last month from the Association of Colleges of a ‘September guarantee’, which would ensure a place in education or training in the autumn for every young person who wants one.

The full LWI report can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/y93ubowj

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