British school and college leavers are at a clear disadvantage compared to foreign workers when it comes to competing for jobs, a government minister said on Wednesday.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said there was a need to "rebalance" the system to "give a leg up" to the young unemployed.
He told The Spectator magazine: "There is no doubt that a young person coming out of school, college or university without the experience (of work) is at a disadvantage compared to someone coming into the UK from overseas.
"Employers may well be looking at a choice between a young British unemployed person, who may not yet have experience under their belt, and somebody from eastern Europe in his mid-twenties with previous experience and the get-up-and-go to move across the continent.
"I think we have to rebalance the process and give a leg up to the young unemployed people here."
Grayling acknowledged that European Union law did not allow employers to discriminate in favour of British job applicants.
But he said government work experience schemes - only open to people who have been on benefits for a period of time - were clearly targeting the young British unemployed.
"There aren't many young eastern Europeans who have been out of work for nine months or more in the UK. There are not many people who have come from eastern Europe who don't have previous experience or previous skills," he said.
"You clearly can't say 'You're Polish, I won't let you receive this'. But in reality this is a scheme that is targeting young unemployed British people."
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