August 18, 2009 / 6:50 PM / 10 years ago

Record numbers of young lack work and training

LONDON (Reuters) - A record number of young people aged from 18 to 24 in England are not in work, education or training, government figures showed on Tuesday, fuelling concern that a generation of school leavers could be lost to the recession.

A man enters a job centre in Coventry August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said there are more than 100,000 more young adults classed as so-called Neets — not in education, employment or training — than there were in the same quarter last year.

In total, 835,000 young people are now Neets, up from 730,000 for the same quarter last year. The DCSF statistics mean that more than one in six young people are without a job or a place in education or training.

Seizing on the figures, opposition parties said the government was failing to give young people the vital support they needed during the economic downturn.

The Confederation of British Industry drew comparisons with the experience of the 1980s recession, saying that “unemployment scarred the lives of young people.”

Liberal Democrat shadow schools secretary David Laws said the young were clearly bearing the brunt of the recession and that the trend, if allowed to continue, risked creating “a lost generation.”

“Labour claimed it would reduce the number of Neets. Instead it has failed spectacularly and there are now more than ever,” Laws said.

For the Conservatives, David Willets, shadow universities and skills secretary, said ministers “had failed to get a grip on the crisis.”

He called for more apprenticeship opportunities, more postgraduate places and better careers advice.

Chancellor Alistair Darling, who is standing in for Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his holiday, said the government was doing all it could to tackle the problem.

He told the BBC every effort was needed to get young people into work or learning “so we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made 20 years ago where a whole generation of people were lost.

“We are determined that will not happen again,” he said.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Richard Williams

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