Why are London's educated young failing to find jobs?

A new report lays out some of the stark truths behind London’s youth unemployment today.

Despite a more highly educated young workforce, and the economic dynamism of the city, the number of unemployed young people remains outsized in comparison to other people in the country.

London’s youth unemployment is particularly high in comparison to the capital’s total unemployment rate: the rate of joblessness for 18-24 year olds in London is 2.64 times as high as the rate for the whole workforce.The multiple is Great Britain’s highest, with Northern Ireland alone outstripping it.

As the Work Foundation explains, this is despite the fact that London’s young people are better educated, even after controlling for family circumstances. Nearly half of young people in free school meals in London get at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, against 36 per cent in England in general.

This shows in the report’s analysis of how well educated London’s young unemployed are: they are significantly more likely to have GCSEs, A levels, an apprenticeship or a degree, in comparison to their peers in the country overall.

Part of this is due to major ethnic differences from other parts of the UK - the employment rate for young black people is 15-20 percentage points lower than for young white people, for whom the employment rate is 86 per cent. The paper’s authors, Ceri Hughes and Lizzie Crowley comment:

There is a stark gap in employment rates between young people from ethnic minorities and White British young people. Policies and interventions to tackle youth unemployment do not tend to target young people from particular ethnic backgrounds, but young people from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black and mixed ethnic groups have much lower employment rates than other young people in London.

These employment gaps are one of the factors behind the higher rates of youth unemployment in London and so it is important to ensure that measures to tackle youth unemployment are working effectively for young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The Work Foundation’s breakdown by London boroughs shows some significant and astonishing disparities: the change in youth unemployment between 2001 and 2011 has not been remotely even across the city. In Hackney, it has actually dropped.

Several other districts saw relatively small increases: Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and Newham all saw increases of less than three percentage points, while London’s overall was closer to five per cent.

And in comparison, some boroughs saw youth unemployment grow by more than double the city’s average pace - Barking and Dagenham, Enfield and Croydon youth unemployment all rose by more than eight percentage points.

Though the report stresses that there is no finite number of jobs in London, they suggest that very strong competition from migrant workers could disadvantage low-skilled young people. But the group also notes the amazing flows of young workers coming to the city - not from abroad but from the rest of the UK.

The report also lays out policy prescriptions that will be up for debate - but it’s clear from the analysis presented that London’s more skilled and educated young workforce isn’t enough alone to prevent an outsized level of youth unemployment in the city.