Youth unemployment ‘could hit record high’ amid pandemic

The most optimistic forecast from the research suggested unemployment in the 16-24 group could grow to more than 80,000.

Youth unemployment in Scotland could reach a record high of more than 140,000 by the end of this year as a result of the jobs crisis caused by Covid-19, a think tank has warned.

IPPR Scotland said that could be the level of joblessness reached among 16 to 24-year-olds in what it described as a “reasonable worst-case ‘downside’ scenario”.

The most optimistic forecast from its research suggested unemployment in this age group could grow to more than 80,000 by the end of 2020.

The figure compares to the latest youth unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed an average of 30,000 16 to 24-year-olds were out of work across the period April 2019 through to March 2020.

The jobless total among young people previously peaked at 95,000 in 2011, in the aftermath of the financial crisis – with just over one in five (21.8%) of young people unemployed.

The think tank is calling for “unprecedented action” from the Scottish Government and others.

Russell Gunson, director of IPPR Scotland, said: “If these projections turn out to be true we will see youth unemployment on a scale we’ve never seen before in Scotland later this year.

“Over 100,000 young people – or more than one in three of Scotland’s young workforce – could be unemployed by the end of the year.

“This is unprecedented and will need unprecedented action over the coming weeks and months without delay.”

The Scottish Government is already taking forward work on a proposed jobs guarantee scheme for younger Scots.

Meanwhile, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proposed the £2bn Kickstart scheme in a bid to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds.

Mr Gunson said measures already announced by Holyrood and Westminster may not be enough to deal with the size of the challenge, saying action was needed at a “pace and a scale not yet seen”.

He stated: “While both the UK and Scottish governments have announced action to try to stave off youth unemployment, we have not yet seen the scale of action meet the scale of the challenge.

“We are facing a ‘100,000 challenge’ in Scotland. The question we must ask and urgently answer is how do we create 100,000 new opportunities for young people in Scotland over the rest of this year?

“Through further additional college and university places, through even greater investment in learning and training, and through action by employers to try to protect opportunities for young people it is more than possible. But we must now act at a pace and a scale not yet seen.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “This Government is serious about investing in our young people and their futures – including injecting £2bn in the Kickstart scheme creating hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised, high-quality jobs for under-25s and we’re rolling out Youth Hubs across local communities to ensure everyone has access to support.

“We’ve also introduced a package of support for businesses giving them the confidence to retain and recruit, while our nationwide network of Work Coaches are already matching jobseekers to new roles as we get Britain back working again and our £150m boost to the Flexible Support Fund means young people can receive training that is right for them.”

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