How to solve the scourge of youth joblessness

Anthony Browne
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IT is not a good time to be young. Much has been stacked against them – poor job opportunities, rising house prices and tuition fees, collapsing pensions, and the burden of having to pay off the national debt.

Last week, figures showed a shock rise in youth unemployment, with nearly one million under 25 year olds not in education, employment or training.

The government is striving to kick start the economy, but it must also strive to ensure that the growth benefits the young.

A massive boost is being given to apprenticeships, and the ambitious work programme will help the young unemployed into jobs. But a lot more needs to be done.

The government has introduced a one year National Insurance holiday for new companies, but the NI holiday should be extended to any existing company with fewer than ten staff that takes on extra employees.

There are more than a million such microenterprises in Britain – if each took on just one person, that would be a million new jobs.

At present the young unemployed are on a level playing field with more experienced workers from the UK as well as immigrants, but it should be tipped a little in their favour – all companies should have a one year NI holiday if they take on someone under the age of 25 who has been unemployed for more than three months. That should eventually be extended to the jobless of any age.

Finally, the government should shift the emphasis further from paying people not to work, in the form of benefits, to paying benefits to companies that take people off the dole.

It is already doing this with the work programme, paying agencies by results to move people from the dole to sustained employment. It should extend this directly to companies – any business that takes on someone who has been unemployed for more than twelve months should get paid their benefits for up to a year.

Huge employers like Tesco and local authorities would then be given an incentive to employ those who are often least employable, opening the world of work for them.
Most of these measures would pay for themselves by cutting benefits or increasing tax revenues. Only by such imaginative measures will we get a job-rich recovery that will benefit young and old alike.

Anthony Browne is a board member of theCityUK