On the scrapheap at 18 as unemployment soars

YOUTH unemployment has soared across Scotland with the number of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance doubling in half of local authorities, new figures have revealed.

The Trades Union Congress has warned the total number – including out of work 16- and 17-year-olds – will soon hit one million across the UK. It warned the country is now “facing the biggest youth unemployment crisis in a generation”.

All 30 Scottish local authorities included in the statistics – Orkney and Shetland were excluded for being too small – saw unemployment rise among 18- to 24-year-olds last year.

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Since 2007, 16 local authorities have seen an increase of 100 per cent or more, with the highest rises in East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire.

Clackmannanshire and North Ayrshire have the highest rates of youth unemployment in Scotland, at 13.8 per cent, followed by East Ayrshire on 12.6, and West Dunbartonshire on 12.4.

North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Falkirk also have more than one in ten unemployed.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “We’re facing the biggest youth unemployment crisis in a generation with close to one million of our young people unable to find work.

“With the economic outlook the gloomiest it’s been since the end of the recession, the bleak prospects facing young jobseekers look set to be with us for some considerable time to come, unless the UK government changes course now and brings in immediate measures to support jobs and growth.

“Young people need particular help to make sure they don’t spend long periods out of employment or education.”

Since 2007, the total proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance has almost doubled in Scotland – from 4.3 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

It is now higher than England’s 8 per cent rate, but less than Wales on 9.1.

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Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, said: “We have been through a very severe economic downturn – the worst recession since the 1930s.

“Unfortunately, in times like this, young people find it very hard to get work because they are competing with people who are already skilled.

“The real solution to unemployment, including youth unemployment, is to get back to economic growth, where the economy creates more jobs.”

However, while the economy continues to struggle, the picture is bleak for young people leaving schools and universities.

Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: “At a time of record youth unemployment and a rise in jobseekers’ claims, the SNP’s guarantee that every 16- to 19-year-old will have the opportunity to be in education, employment or training is welcome news.

“However, unless there is the funding, particularly to colleges, to back this up, this guarantee could come at the expense of opportunities for older students to get a second chance at education, or to come off the dole queue.

“The SNP manifesto pledged to protect college numbers, and every SNP candidate made a personal pledge to protect college places.

“These statistics show that they must deliver on this commitment, not just for 16-19 year olds, but for people throughout the age groups.”

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Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour Party leader, said: “Behind these figures are a generation of young Scots rich in talent, full of potential, with a hunger to work, but let down by an SNP government.

“Scotland is in the grip of the worst youth unemployment crisis in a generation, and yet the SNP’s response is to choke off opportunity by cutting funding for our country’s colleges by 20 per cent, and cutting capital investment.”

But a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish labour market continues to outperform the UK as a whole – with lower unemployment, higher employment, and lower economic inactivity rates. And Scotland’s rate of youth employment is 4.4 percentage points higher than the UK. It is also important to note that a fifth of unemployed 18- to 24-year-olds are also in full-time education.

“But more needs to be done, which is exactly why this government is taking strong action to address youth unemployment, including the record 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship places this year and in each year of this parliament, and the ‘Opportunities for All’ programme – guaranteeing a training or learning place for all 16- to 19-year-olds – which will help give our young folk the life chances and opportunities they deserve.”