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Coronavirus: UK on the brink of youth unemployment crisis, TUC warns

Coronavirus: UK on the brink of youth unemployment crisis, TUC warns

UK on the brink of youth unemployment crisis, union chiefs warn

4 min read

The UK is on the brink of a youth unemployment crisis thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, union chiefs have warned.

Analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows younger workers are three times more likely to work in sectors most vulnerable to job cuts, including hospitality and the arts.

And women under 25 are most at risk of finding themselves out of a job as the UK emerges from lockdown.

The organisation, which has more than 50 affiliated trade unions, studied the rate of furloughed workers, the proportion of businesses that have paused or cancelled trading, and the proportion of businesses with turnover falling more than 50% in each sector.

It found those working in ‘accommodation and food’ and ‘arts, entertainment and recreation’ were in a “league of their own” in terms of vulnerability to a surge in unemployment, with rates far exceeding the construction industry in third place. 

The two industries have furloughed around 83% and 73% of their workforces respectively.

Of 4,352,000 UK workers aged 25 and under, 890,000 – around 20% - work in the top two at-risk industries, compared to 6% of workers older than 25.

Women aged 25 and under face the biggest risk, as they are six times more likely than men over 25 to work in hospitality.

"We will be bringing a full post-coronavirus recovery package before Parliament in the coming weeks, making sure there are options for young people" - Minister Mims Davies

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "We know it's a tough road ahead. But the more people there are in work, the faster we can work our way out of recession.

“Our national recovery plan must be centred on jobs – both protecting those we have and creating more.  We need more good jobs in social care, in the green tech that our future depends on, in UK start-ups and in a revitalised manufacturing sector.”

The TUC said the number of job vacancies have already fallen by a quarter compared to the same period last year and has called for the government to put in place a job guarantee scheme, with early access for younger workers.

Similar to the government’s Future Jobs Fund, which offers subsidised employment for young people at a disadvantage in the labour market, the scheme would see employers helped to create more vacancies of at least six months, paying the higher 'real' living wage and offering training opportunities to help people secure longer-term work.

Ms O’Grady added: “Some industries may need help for longer through the job retention scheme so they can retain staff while they adapt to new safety standards.

“And for those who lose their jobs, the government must set up a job guarantee scheme. Young people in particular can’t be left to the misery of long-term unemployment. And it’s the best value option for the treasury.

“Making sure everyone has a decent job on a fair wage is how to recover faster and build back better."


Alongside the job guarantee scheme, the TUC wants Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the job retention scheme for employers who cannot easily adapt to social distancing. 

The deadline for furloughing workers under the scheme was June 10, with a view to it being phased out as businesses begin to reopen - but pubs, bars and restaurants, as well as other leisure industries, have been told they will not be able to reopen until July 4 at the earliest.

Employment minister Mims Davies MP said the government was doing "everything we can to protect our economy".

"We will be bringing a full post-coronavirus recovery package before Parliament in the coming weeks, making sure there are options for young people," she added.

"Before the pandemic, we had nearly halved youth unemployment and supporting young people into work will be critical as we emerge from this emergency, rebuild and renew.

“Alongside our package of support for business, we’ve launched a targeted employment campaign and telephone job surgery for those on benefits. Meanwhile the National Careers Service is helping young people who have been furloughed, made redundant or had their exams cancelled.”

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