The job prospects of young people who are not in full time education are deteriorating "rapidly" despite a wider recovery in the jobs market, a report has warned.
Research by the TUC found that the job situation facing young people aged 16 to 24 outside education was "alarming".
A study of employment rates over the past 17 years found that employment had improved for groups including lone parents, older people, black and Asian employees and the disabled.
But the brighter picture is not being felt by young people, or who have basic or no qualifications, said the report.
Young people not in full-time education are less likely to have a job than workers aged 50 to 64, a "remarkable" turnaround given that they were 25% more likely to be in work than older workers in 1998, said the TUC.
The report also showed that fewer than half of those who have no qualifications are in work, while the employment rate for those who only have basic (level 1) qualifications has fallen to around 63%.
Unless action is taken, the prospects for low-skilled youngsters and unqualified people of all ages will continue to deteriorate, it was warned.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "All the mainstream political parties now support unions' long-held commitment to full employment.
"But with job prospects for many young people, and poorly qualified people of all ages, deteriorating it will be impossible for any government to achieve this goal unless radical action is taken.
"Over the last two decades, we've learnt that strong growth and proper investment in employment programmes can make a huge difference to people's job chances. But ministers seem keener on kicking struggling youngsters when they're down and removing the safety net they need to learn new skills and find work.
"We need to increase funding for employment programmes, for example by guaranteeing a job or training to any young person who's been out of work for six months or more. Spending more money on jobs support now will save money in the long run by getting more people in work and paying taxes."
The Department for Work and Pensions disputed the findings.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "This report is wrong, misleading and irresponsible in how it talks down young people's chances in the UK.
"Times have been tough for young people in the jobs market, but we know that they have worked hard to make sure that their prospects are better now than in any other recent recovery.
"Young people who aren't studying full time have a higher employment rate than any other group the TUC lists, and it's a credit to every single young person grasping the opportunities that are out there that they've been able to do that - and the businesses and local organisations that have supported them."Suggest a correction