New report reveals that there is a ‘youth jobs gap’ between rich and poor, leaving disadvantaged young people locked out of the labour market

A ground-breaking new report today has revealed that education alone can’t explain why young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to be out of work than their wealthier peers. 

The landmark study, ‘Establishing the Employment Gap’, published today by charity Impetus, reveals that young people on free school meals are twice as likely to end up not earning or learning (NEET – not in education, employment or training). Even when these young people gain the same level of qualifications as their better-off peers, they’re still 50% more likely to be out of education and employment in early adulthood.

The report uses new LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data from the Department of Education to explore the impact of growing up in a poor family on life chances. It brings together these insights by connecting people’s school records with their journey into employment. 

Findings include

Young people who grow up on free school meals are twice as likely to be NEET in early adulthood than their better-off peers

The report found that 26% of disadvantaged young people who were eligible for free school meals were subsequently NEET after leaving school. Comparatively, only 13% of those not eligible for free school meals ended up NEET. This “Employment Gap” is equivalent to 78,000 extra disadvantaged young people aged between 18 and 24 ending up NEET.

Qualifications alone won’t be enough to close this gap

The employment gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers cannot be explained by education alone. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to get good qualifications, but even when they do, an employment gap remains.

The report finds that even when young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have similar qualifications to their better-off peers, they’re still 50% more likely to be out of education and employment in early adulthood.

There are significant regional disparities when it comes to the prospects of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

Where you grow up also affects your life chances; a disadvantaged young person in the North East is 50% more likely to end up NEET than a disadvantaged young person in London.

High quality employment support is vital to help young people overcome this gap. Impetus supports a number of charities – like TwentyTwenty in the Midlands, City Gateway and Resurgo in London - who help young people move into work and progress, focusing on mindset and work experience, as well as qualifications. As part of this research, Impetus is supporting organisations such as Resurgo to benchmark their programmes and build on what works for young people who are NEET.

Andy Ratcliffe, CEO of Impetus, said: “We’ve all heard the good news about record levels of youth employment. Our data lets us look beneath the headline figures at what is happening to young people from different backgrounds, in different parts of the country, and with different qualifications. And for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, this is not a good news story. 

We are breaking a fundamental promise to young people in this country. We tell them: ‘study hard, get your qualifications and good jobs will follow’. For many young people this is true. But for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds it isn’t. They are less likely to get those qualifications, and even when they do, less likely to benefit.”

Stefan Speckesser, from research partner National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “By showing regional and local differences in the Employment Gap, we find evidence that some local areas are more successfully tackling the negative effects of disadvantage, which are unrelated to education success, on young people’s school-to-work transitions. From this point of view, the analysis of large data offers a great potential to see where local actors can achieve better outcomes and to learn from good practice.”

The report is available here