THE BLOG
09/11/2013 15:48 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:53 GMT

Youth Unemployment: UK's Next Crisis

Just as we are still trying to recover from the financial crisis of 2008, there is likely another one coming our way - the youth unemployment problem.

Many 15 to 24 years old are struggling to find jobs and are receiving neither training nor education. There are over a million of them in the UK. 20% for the age group of 18-24 and some 38% for the 16-17 are jobless. Worse yet, a quarter of them have been out of work for more than 12 months.

The UK government has tried to address this issue. But it won't help unless it gets at the roots of the problems.

It's the economic growth, stupid. The UK government launched last year a £1 billion scheme to offer job training and apprenticeships, which is now branded as a failure. Why? Because it does not guarantee jobs. And this highlights a major disconnect: jobs are a consequence of economic growth. If there is no growth, there will be no new jobs. All the training in the world can't create jobs.

Perceptions often matters more. In our society, certain jobs (especially vocational ones) are considered "low" status. We tend to thumb our noses at these jobs, even if they require a high level of skill. Conversely, occupations that require university level education carry a "higher" status. In a recent study, 70% of young people said they viewed a vocational path as more helpful in securing employment; half said they found it more appealing than pursuing higher education. Yet, few of them would choose vocational training. This tells us something important: perceptions of what work means can matter more than economic survival.

Mismatch of expectations. Many companies have complained that they can't fill their vacancies. A recent survey of the 1,000 employers reveals that more than half said that our education system has failed to serve the needs of business. Where's the disconnect here? Educators don't always know what employers are looking for, yet they think they do. Graduates may have skills, but not the right ones.

The youth unemployment crisis shows no signs of abating. And this is more costly than people think. It was estimated in 2012 that youth unemployment would cost the exchequer £4.8 billion - more than the budget for further education for 16 to 19 years old in England - and cost the economy £10.7 billion in lost output. More worryingly, it'll ratchet up further future costs of £2.9 billion per year (equivalent to the entire annual budget for job centres) and £6.3 billion per annum to the economy in lost output. And these don't include the costs related to the social and health issues that youth unemployment would bring.

It's therefore an urgent issue that must be taken seriously. It's not just our young people who lose out if they cannot find work--society as a whole will suffer tremendously. Our future is at stake.