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Youth unemployment ‘crisis’ looms, Labour warns government

LABOUR warned today of an impending jobs crisis facing young people as new figures showed that almost nine in 10 jobs lost during the pandemic have been those of under-35s.

Between February 2020 and last month, 693,000 fewer people were in paid employment, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

About 63 per cent (437,000) of those who lost their jobs were under 25, while 25 per cent were aged 25 to 34 (174,000).

Of all under-25s now unemployed, 74 per cent have been jobless for at least six months.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said the figures “confirm yet again that our young people are facing a jobs crisis.”

In his Budget earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that £126 million would go to the expansion of traineeships in England for the 2021-22 academic year, and he doubled funding for each new apprenticeship to £3,000.

The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme was announced last year, under which the government covers the cost of a six-month work placement for under-25s at risk of long-term unemployment.

But take-up never kicked off: only about 4,000 placements started in the six months since it launched, despite the Tory government promising that it would create more than 250,000 jobs. 

Mr Reynolds said that the schemes “do not go far enough.

“Our young people deserve so much better — Labour’s jobs promise would guarantee young people out of education or work for six months a training or job placement.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it is “make or break time” to prevent mass unemployment, adding: “We could create 1.8 million new jobs in the next two years in green transport and infrastructure and by unlocking public-sector vacancies. 

“People who have lost their jobs must get the support they need to make ends meet. Without a boost to universal credit, many will be pushed into poverty.” 

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that “2020 was a year of jobs destruction: 2021 ought to be a year of jobs creation — but we have yet to see ambition or energy on this from the government.”

A report published today by the National Youth Agency and Youth Employment UK says that it would take 1,000 new jobs and training places a day to avoid a 50 per cent rise in the numbers of under-25s not in employment, education or training.

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