State of the Nation report: youth joblessness ‘a toxic legacy’

THOUSANDS of young Scots face a bleak future of poverty, joblessness and poor health, a new State of the Nation report has warned.

THOUSANDS of young Scots face a bleak future of poverty, joblessness and poor health, a new State of the Nation report has warned.

The number of Scots aged under 25 who are out of work has doubled to 90,000 since 2008, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

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The report also found that a boy born in the most deprived 10 per cent of Scotland would have a life expectancy of just 68.

That is eight years younger than the national average, and 14 years below boys born in the least deprived parts of the country.

The foundation urged Scottish ministers to take action to help the nation’s poorest.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The Scottish Government has powers to do a lot now. They don’t need to wait for constitutional change.

“Routes into work, childcare, training are all things they can affect now. It’s a fiendishly difficult time. We face a decade of destitution unless governments increase what they are doing dramatically.”

She warned high levels of youth unemployment would create a toxic legacy for future generations. “That’s a shocking indictment that we will be paying for for decades,” she said.

The report also highlighted the rise in part-time employment, from 70,000 in 2008, when the economic crisis hit, to 120,000 now.

Health inequalities “are not only stark, but growing”, the report warns. Rates of mortality for heart disease are twice as high in deprived areas, at 100 per 100,000 under-75s, compared with the national average. Cancer mortality rates are 50 per cent higher in poorer areas, at 200 per 100,000.

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It is not all bad news, however. Over the past decade, the proportion claiming unemployment benefit in Scotland has fallen from 17 to 15 per cent. Despite still having the highest proportion of claimants at 22 per cent, Glasgow has seen the biggest fall.

However, the bulk of that decrease came between 2002 and 2007, with many areas seeing a slight rise since then.

Scotland’s child poverty rate has dropped 10 per cent in a decade, and is now lower than England and Wales, while pensioner poverty has almost halved. This continued to fall in recent years, with 220,000 children and 120,000 pensioners living in poverty, after housing costs in 2010-11, the most recent figures.

Anne Houston, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, said: “While the figures around child poverty are hopeful, the wider statistics on unemployment for under-25s and life expectancy really are quite stark.

“These issues are likely to be exacerbated by the impending [Westminster] welfare reforms. However, the Scottish Government needs to continue to look at areas where they have authority to see how the pressure on families in Scotland can be ameliorated.”

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s economy committee, added: “We have huge challenges on health inequalities in Scotland, and more needs to be done to get key messages through.

“Youth unemployment remains a concern, but across the UK things are beginning to look up.”

The Scottish Government insisted Westminster benefit cuts were the biggest threat when it came to poverty and inequality.

A spokesman said: “It is clear the impact of the cuts will extend across Scottish society, with vulnerable groups, women and working families all likely to suffer.”

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