Graeme Paton of the Telegraph in the UK reports an increase in the number of young people not in education employment or training (NEET). NEETs now account for one in six people aged 16 to 24 in the UK. In real terms this amounts to 954,000 people, which is an increase of 3% over the same quarter last year and a 15% increase from five years ago.
The figure belies claims of economic recovery already made dubious by ONS figures that show a 0.3% retraction of the UK economy during the first quarter of 2012, and indicates that school leavers and graduates are still being hit hard by the job shortage attached to the recession.
While a Department for Education spokesman admitted the number was unacceptably high he claimed that government wasn’t ignoring the problem and had actually invested almost $1 billion in the Youth Contract scheme. This scheme provides incentive payments to companies which hire young people.
“We are driving up standards right across the schools system to bring the numbers down,” he said. “We are also overhauling vocational education, so all employers can be confident about the skills of our young people and the rigour of our qualifications.”
Data from the end of last year showed that the problem of NEETs was more pronounced in the UK than any EU nation apart from Spain, Italy and Ireland.
Labour criticized government education and economic policy which they claim is causing the problem and accused ministers of ‘kicking away the ladders for the next generation’:
Karen Buck, shadow education minister, said: “The Tory-led Government’s cuts in education are the biggest since the 1950s.
“Its economic strategy, which has resulted in a double dip recession made in Downing Street, is hurting and not working. It is families that are paying the price with incomes being squeezed and long-term unemployment at a 16-year high.
“By cutting too far and too fast, it’s clear that this Government believes today’s levels of youth unemployment are a price worth paying for its out of touch policies.”
As the NEET figure once again rises towards the politically sensitive one million mark, Deputy PM Nick Clegg reminds us that unemployment for school leavers and graduates isn’t the only major problem facing UK education, claiming that the dominance of private education in society is effectively killing social mobility. He noted that children educated privately were more than three times a likely to achieve the premier university requirement of 28 points (2 As and a B at A-level) than pupils in state schools. He claimed that this gap was larger than that of almost any other developed nation.