To hear that 1 in 5 young people are currently out of work is horrific. These are the worst figures since records began and is a poor indictment of Blair and Brown's time in office.
I have been keeping an eye on youth employment figures and it has become clear that the government's actions in this area have been driven more by spin and PR than by any real desire to reduce youth unemployment.
The Future Jobs Fund is a classic example of policy by headlines. It allocated £1billion to buy 6 months of employment for 100,000 long term unemployed young people. Sounds great, until you look beyond the headlines.
The fund made no provision to address the underlying cause of youth unemployment. The jobs had to be "new" positions, meaning that companies created artificial and unsustainable posts just to qualify for the funding. And once the money from the government runs out the jobs disappear.
It was £1billion spent to create an artificial dip in youth unemployment figures ahead of a General Election. Cynical and ineffective, typically New Labour.
There are three broad measures which will bring down youth unemployment. Firstly ensure that there is a buoyant employment market, particularly in the small business sector. Small businesses employ the vast bulk of young people and have been some of the worst hit by this recession.
Secondly ensure that the education and skills training is up to the standard that will enable our young people to take advantage of the economic upturn, when it comes. Creating the demand for employees will be of no use if young people are not qualified to take up the posts.
Finally make it less costly and bureaucratic for companies to employ people. It is too often the case that the marginal cost of employing staff deters small businesses from growing. They prefer to stay within their comfort zones and not to take the financial risk. Employers NI contributions should be reduced (it is basically a tax on employing people) and a simple process made available to navigate the myriad of rules that relate employing people. Better still the rules should be simplified.
The current government have done nothing to address these basic issues and I have little doubt that it will take a change of government to make any real improvement.
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