Jobless crisis for young Londoners after pandemic

The capital’s youth unemployment has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic with 21 per cent of young people seeking work jobless, a joint investigation by the Evening Standard and The Independent has revealed.

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

The situation here 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 on nine per cent.

Most worrying is that 42 per cent of unemployed youths nationwide have been jobless for six months or more, with crushing consequences for their hopes and self-esteem.

These statistics expose the failure of the Government’s £2 billion 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 just 40 per cent, with the scheme 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 work existing contemporaneously and pointing to a stark mismatch.


Steve Haines, spokesman for Impetus, a group that helps charities transform the lives of disadvantaged youths, said young people have borne the economic brunt of the pandemic.

“Young people with the least experience were the first to be laid off. Later, when vacancies opened up, they lacked experience putting them at the back of the queue and pointing to a skills mismatch between employers’ demands and what young people have to offer. A significant proportion of unemployed young people need support before they have the skills and confidence required.”

Polly Hughes, of City Gateway, an east London charity supporting hundreds of disadvantaged young people into work every year, said: “Young people have been caught in a perfect storm. To get a sustainable job they need the right experience and skills.

“Work placements and apprenticeships provide this, but almost 80 per cent of entry-level apprenticeships and work placements were cut or paused due to Covid. As the job market opened up, there has been increased competition for entry level roles with two years’ worth of school leavers and graduates looking. Combined with older workers returning to the labour market, the impact is pushed further down the chain. This affects those most who have the least experience, however talented they may be.”

Tanya Francis 29th November 2021