A lost generation
I’ve been thinking about Matt’s guest post for us earlier today, and it raises important questions about targeting. I’m impressed by Policy Exchange’s experiment – it’s strong evidence for the reality of discrimination against older workers and he’s right to point out that older people who become unemployed are more likely than members of other age groups to remain unemployed for a long time.
It’s a clear call for not leaving older workers out when designing employment policies. (A point that is strongly supported by Chris Ball of The Age and Employment Network, who’s also written guest posts for us.)
But I’m still inclined to worry about young unemployed people becoming a lost generation (which is why there’s no question mark in the title of this post).
In the latest employment figures, there were 473,000 under -25s who had been unemployed for over a year, that is 6.5% of all young people. Compare that with other age groups: for 25 – 49 year olds the figure is 3.1% and for over-50s its 2.3%.
This isn’t a competition, but we have to be worried about that 6.5% figure. And we know that people who become long-term unemployed when they’re young are less likely to have jobs and if they have jobs are likely to be lower paid even when they’re in their 40s. This means that, eventually, when they retire, they’ll have lower pensions too, so their whole lives are likely to have been affected. (Blanchflower and Bell have done a great job putting together the evidence on this.)
When one member in fifteen of a generation faces these risks for the rest of their lives I don’t think it’s over the top to worry about them being ‘lost’. Matt is right, the problems facing older unemployed people are serious and we shouldn’t forget about them – but we shouldn’t de-prioritize young people either.
Update 9 July: when I was putting up this post I worried that perhaps it was so balanced that it wasn’t very interesting. Then today we get Tory MP Therese Coffey arguing that older workers should pay NI Contributions to fund measures to increase young people’s employment. When we’re up against this sort of thing it is important to assert that we need to support young people without setting one generation against another.