Great Britain
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One in five young people jobless in London as youth unemployment soars since start of pandemic

Youth unemployment in the capital has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic with more than 21 per cent of young people seeking work jobless, a joint investigation by The Independent and the Evening Standard reveals today.

The figure is five times the national jobless rate for all ages of 4.3 per cent and is even higher among young women, with almost one in four females aged 16-24 in London unemployed, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

The situation in the capital is by some distance the worst in the country, with the West Midlands the next most affected region at 15 per cent and Scotland the least impacted on 9 per cent. Most worrying is that 42 per cent of unemployed youths countrywide have remained jobless for six months or more, with crushing consequences, said experts, for their hopes and self-esteem.

These statistics expose the failure of the Government’s £2bn Kickstart scheme, launched in September 2020 to fund employers to get under-25 year-olds on Universal Credit into employment at minimum wages, but which has resulted in just 96,700 of the targeted 250,000 roles being filled. The scheme was hampered by poor design which initially deterred small and medium sized businesses from participating. Belated modifications failed to generate sufficient uptake resulting in a success rate of less than 40 per cent, with the scheme criticised by a cross-party Lords committee and the National Audit Office and set to be concluded in March 2022.

The spike in youth unemployment comes despite job vacancies rising last month to a record of nearly 1.2 million countrywide, leading to both a lack of jobs and a surfeit of jobs existing contemporaneously and pointing to a stark mismatch.

In a five-day investigation into the scale of young joblessness and its cost to individuals and society, we begin by focusing on two young people who were working before the pandemic but have been unemployed ever since. We also speak to experts who reflect on the cost to society and individuals of the mismatch between the skills and experience supplied by young people and that demanded by employers.