From education to employment

House of Commons debate reveals youth unemployment figure

The number of teenagers who are not in education or employment has nearly tripled since 1998 despite the “enormous number of Government programmes”.

Addressing the House of Commons earlier this week, Dr Vincent Cable, Shadow Chancellor [Liberal Democrats], questioned Jim Murphy, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, on the numbers of economically inactive 16 to 17 year-olds.

Mr Murphy said: “At the end of 1998, the figure was 46,000. At the end of 2005, there were 122,000 economically inactive people aged 16 and 17 not in full-time education”.

Dr Cable argued that, despite the “enormous number of Government programmes and despite the fact that that group features a high prevalence of crime, drug use and other forms of antisocial activity”, why this group of teenagers has “tripled to roughly 30% of the total”.

“This is an important point”, Mr Murphy responded. “We introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to encourage young folk to stay on at school because the priority is for them to remain in education. I am pleased to confirm to the House that both the proportion and number of such people who remain in education is up, although there is much more work to do.

“I think that the hon. Gentleman would accept that the long-term youth claimant count is down by 60% nationally and by 50% in his constituency”, he added.

On the question of long-term youth unemployment, Philip Hammond [Con, Runnymede Weybridge] asked: “I am confused. A moment ago, I heard the Minister say that the long-term youth claimant count was down by 60%, but on 5 September, the Prime Minister said: “We have eradicated long-term youth unemployment”.

“Additionally, just the other day I read published Office for National Statistics data showing that long-term youth unemployment stands at 181,000, which is its highest level since October 1997. Will the Minister tell us who has got it right””him, the Prime Minister or the ONS””and which two have got it wrong?”

Mr Murphy replied: “I can confirm that long-term youth unemployment in his constituency stands at 15. Of course, that is 15 too many, and we will do all that we can, working with everyone else, to ensure that we further reduce long-term youth unemployment in his constituency and elsewhere”.

“However, I am sure that he would be the first to acknowledge that remarkable progress has been made on eradicating long-term youth unemployment”.

Addressing the question [Keith Vaz, Lab, Leicester East] on the decline of jobs in the textile industry, Mr Murphy pointed to the ongoing skills challenge faced by the UK: “There are continuing pockets of difficulty. He will know of the work being done by Sandy Leitch on the skills strategy. He will also know that in a global economy we cannot compete with China, India and others on the basis of low cost, but must compete on the basis of high skills”.

Vijay Pattni.

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