Work Foundation, International Lessons: Youth unemployment in the global context

Key findings

A new report by the Work Foundation shows that the UK is lagging behind major competitor economies when it comes to tackling youth unemployment.

The report, International Lessons in the global context – funded by Trust for London – shows that the UK has experienced the fastest rise in youth unemployment of any country in the G8 since the start of the recession and now has the third worst levels in the OECD, with only Spain and Greece experiencing higher levels.

The report argues that the UK’s youth unemployment problem cannot be attributed solely to the recession, particularly as other major economies have consistently outperformed the UK in this area. Drawing on policy responses from other countries, the report identifies a range of key lessons for the UK:


  • From Germany, the report makes recommendations for the UK apprenticeship system, calling for greater employer engagement and urging the government to push for all large employers to sign an agreement to offer places, with a widening of the model to include more occupations and greater academic content.
  • From Denmark, the report calls for the government to focus on early intervention and an ‘education first’ approach for young unemployed people without qualifications. Policy should also encourage more opportunities for private sector on-the-job training, which is likely to have more long-term benefits compared to unpaid work experience.
  • From Australia, the report raises major concerns about work-for-your-dole schemes, with evidence showing them to be largely ineffective at getting young people into employment. It warns that while voluntary schemes can have a small positive impact, forcing people to take part in schemes – such as the government’s Day One Support work experience programme – can actually reduce a person’s chances of getting into work. The report also recommends improving and reintroducing the Key Stage 4 work experience programme and developing a range of other initiatives to better integrate education with work.

The report received wide media coverage on BBC Radio 4, BBC News at One, ITV Newsthe Financial Timesthe Daily Mailthe Metro, the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Evening StandardSky NewsReuters, The Daily Mail (again), The ScotsmanHuffington Post, Personnel Today, BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio London and LBC Radio.

The research was launched at an event chaired by Mubin Haq, Trust for London’s Director of Policy & Grants. Speakers included: Angela Constance – Minister for Youth Employment, Scottish Government; Stefano Scarpetta – Deputy Director, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD; and Joanneke Balfoort – Head of the Economic Section, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in London.

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Work Foundation, International Lessons: Youth unemployment in the global context

Full report 1.2 MB

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