Children from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be out of work because of a “youth jobs gap” between rich and poor, amid concerns that young people are “trapped” in low-paid work.
One in four young people in England who are eligible for free school meals were not in education, employment or training (or “NEETs”) after leaving school, research by charity Impetus found.
Meanwhile, just 13% of young people who were not registered for free school meals ended up as NEETs, said the report.
There were also regional differences, with a disadvantaged young person in the North East being 50% more likely to end up as a NEET than a young person in the same position who lives in London.
Education alone cannot explain the employment gap, the charity said, as young people from poorer backgrounds still fare worse even when they achieve good qualifications.
“Young people who have grown up in poverty can face significant disadvantages when they come to look for their first job”
Poorer young people with similar qualifications to their better-off peers are still 50% more likely to be out of education and employment in early adulthood.
The findings came out of education department data on 18 to 24-year-old NEETs in England.
Impetus chief executive Andy Ratcliffe said: “We are breaking a fundamental promise to young people in this country. We tell them: ‘Study hard, get your qualifications and good jobs will follow’.
“For many young people this is true, but for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds it isn’t. They are less likely to get those qualifications, and even when they do, less likely to benefit.”
He added: “We’ve all heard the good news about record levels of youth employment. Our data lets us look beneath the headline figures at what is happening to young people from different backgrounds, in different parts of the country, and with different qualifications, and, for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, this is not a good news story.”
Shadow employment minister Mike Amesbury said: “This report must act as a wake-up call to the government. Young people who have grown up in poverty can face significant disadvantages when they come to look for their first job.
“The Tory Party is failing young people, who are too often trapped in low-paid and insecure work, but the government is refusing to track whether or not its flagship youth employment programme, the Youth Obligation, is working.”
Mark Hawthorne, of the Local Government Association, said that devolving careers advice services and adult skills budgets to local government level would allow more cooperation between schools, colleges and employers.