Gloomy prospects for UK youths who've never held jobs: report

People stand outside the Job Centre in Chatham, in south-east England
Adrian Dennis | AFP | Getty Images
People stand outside the Job Centre in Chatham, in south-east England

One-half of U.K. young people who are not in full-time education have never held a job, a leading U.K. think tank said on Wednesday, ahead of the release of the country's official monthly unemployment numbers, which revealed that youth unemployment had risen in the last three months.

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Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) showed that employment prospects for those aged between 16 and 24-years-old were hampered if they had gained no experience of paid work while still studying.

The unemployment rate was higher for those who left regular education without experience of paid work, standing at 23 percent, versus 14 percent for those who had previously held paid work.

IPPR's economic analyst Spencer Thompson said, "Gaining experience of the world of work while studying is vital for the future job chances of young people. But fewer and fewer young people are working while learning."

Currently, in the U.K., 75 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds who are still in education do not hold a job. In comparison, 60 percent of those in the Netherlands do.

While apprenticeships are popular in some European countries to ease the transition from education to work, they are less common in the U.K. The IPPR stressed that U.K. employers were increasingly reluctant to hire and train young people, "and a vocational qualification often guarantees little more than a low-skilled job in the service sector."

IPPR's report came after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported in June that those aged between 15 and 29 in the U.K. spend on average 2.3 years unemployed in 2011, compared with 1.7 years in Germany and 1.1 years in the Netherlands.

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"These findings show the need for a job guarantee for young people, paid at least the minimum wage, to provide them vital with experience of the workplace," Thompson said.

"By having job experience on their CV when they leave full-time education, young people will be at an instant and much needed advantage when entering the jobs market."

IPPR's findings shed new light on what Wednesday's U.K. employment numbers actually mean for young people in Britain. The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics indicated that there were 973,000 unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds between April to June 2013, up 15,000 from January to March 2013.

Last week, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said he would not consider raising interest rates until the jobless rate has fallen to 7 percent or lower. That would require the creation of about 750,000 jobs, and could take three years, according to the central bank's own forecasts.

Britain's unemployment rate remained steady at 7.8 percent in the three months to June, according to official figures.

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But as the IPPR highlighted in its jobs report last year, young people not only suffer from a lack of work experience, but from competition from older and more experienced workers: youths are more than three and a half times more likely to be unemployed than those aged over 25. The report also said that only 6 percent of U.K. employers recruited those who were straight out of school.

For Thompson, the data further emphasized the need for a job guarantee for young people. "This guarantee would also ensure that those who cannot afford to participate in unpaid work experience placements are not at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for jobs," he said.