Why is there a shortage of young people in the workplace?

April 15th, 2024


Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 22 February 2024 revealed a sharp increase in the number of young people out of work. The group covers ages 16 to 24 and are known as NEETs – not in education, employment or training.

ONS statistics show that as of December 2023 NEETs make up 12% of 16 – 24 year olds in the UK. This is the highest percentage since 2016. There are concerns that this percentage will continue to increase.

What is causing this increase remains uncertain. Experts have asserted a number of potential reasons as to why more young people are finding themselves unemployed and outside of education. A prominent explanation is mental health, with increased mental health diagnoses in young people including for anxiety and depression. Young people are likely to have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 lockdown measures, which may have had a widespread impact on their experience working in social settings. 

The cost-of-living crisis will also have a detrimental effect on young people’s mental health, particularly given they are more likely to have smaller incomes and are therefore more vulnerable to financial instability. 

There has also been a decline in apprenticeships, which has previously been a gateway to employment for young people who do not take on higher education. This may be due to the introduction of the government’s apprenticeship levy paid by large employers, which could be a deterrent for employers taking on apprentices and may cause them to instead spend money on training their existing workforce.

Other research suggests that more graduates want jobs that fit their qualifications, rather than being willing to start at the bottom of the ladder.  

Time will tell if this trend will continue and if so what is causing the increase in unemployment among young people. More employers will undoubtedly become aware of this issue as they notice changes in the recruitment market and will need to think about what can be done to tackle this issue.

Young people in the workplace

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