David Cameron today accused Gordon Brown of failing Britain’s youth after figures were released showing one in five young people is now out of work.
The pair clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons with youth unemployment now at an unprecedented level.
Among those aged 16 to 24 the number looking for work, has reached almost 19.8 per cent — almost one million — for the first time.
Mr Cameron said: “You once promised to abolish youth unemployment. Do you accept that you’ve failed?”
The Conservative leader said the Government planned cuts across Whitehall departments that would hamper measures to reduce youth unemployment including apprenticeships and development loans.
“The state of the public finances is so bad that the Government plans deep cuts in every department including those that help the unemployed,” he said.
Gordon Brown rejected figures showing that 943,000 young people were unemployed.
“I have to say about the figures you quote on youth unemployment, 250,000 of the number you quote are full-time students looking for part-time work and they are not fully unemployed,” Mr Brown told MPs.
“No government in Europe is doing more to help young people out of work.”
The figures came as Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, today announced plans to make apprenticeships equivalent to A levels by attaching Ucas points to them. The work based placements will become a passport to university and each year the 1,000 top apprentices in England will be handed one-off “golden hello” bursaries of up to £1,000 when they enter higher education, through an Apprenticeship Scholarships Fund.
The plans are part of the National Skills Strategy and will come into force in 2011.
According to recent figures, while the numbers of people taking up apprenticeships has risen slightly, take-up amongst 16 to 18-year-olds has fallen.
Official figures released today, from the Office for National Statistics, showed that unemployment climbed by just 30,000 in the quarter to September — the smallest quarterly rise since spring last year.
There had been expectations that total unemployment would reach 2.5 million.
But predictions of a ‘lost generation’ of graduates unable to get a toe-hold on the employment ladder appear to have held true.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “Today’s unemployment figures are a major disappointment.
“We know that there are far fewer graduate vacancies this year and that the situation for graduates is tough.”
It is too early to say whether conditions will improve in the graduate job market next year, he added, and said: “There is optimism amongst graduate recruiters that the situation should start to ease somewhat.”
One in four graduate vacancies was scrapped this year as employers attempted to reduce their staffing costs without having to cut existing jobs. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds classed as not employed, in education or in training – or Neets – went up by 15,000.
Amongst young adults — aged 18 to 24 — unemployment rose by 24,000 over the three months between June and September to 746,000, a rate of 18 per cent, the highest since 1992.
Theresa May, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “These are yet more grim figures for Britain. Labour has written off a generation of young people with one in five now unable to find a job.
“Labour need to wake up and adopt our plans to get Britain working as a matter of urgency.
“In particular they need to offer more support to young people by taking up our proposals to create hundreds of thousands of additional apprenticeships and training places to prevent a generation being cast adrift because of Gordon Brown’s recession.”
Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said more people in work was welcome news.
“The fact that unemployment is significantly lower than everyone forecast at the beginning of the year shows the support for the economy is making a real difference,” she said.
“But we know things are still tough for a lot of families, and unemployment is expected to increase further next year.
“That’s why we’re determined to do more with an extra 35,000 youth jobs, more apprenticeships and education places so we can guarantee no young person gets stuck in long term unemployment.”
Source: Joanna Sugden and Nico Hines, The Times 11/11/2009