Youth unemployment: is it really as drastic as they say?


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published some dramatic quotes last month relating to youth unemployment.

The opposition leader, Ed Miliband, chants and jibes at the coalition for the ‘lost generation’. But figures that were not taken into account are suggesting that the youth of today perhaps don’t deserve this special treatment.

Nearly 800,000 18-24s were unemployed in the early 1990s, compared to around the 700-750,000 mark of recent months. So, in terms of actual numbers, as opposed to rates, on the same measure over the same period, the situation is not quite so bad now as it was.

The figures and rates the ONS have published seem to have been calculated in rather a strange way. Instead of considering youth in the UK as a whole, they take a percentage of the employed and unemployed economically active and counter that with those that are not active.

This subtle, albeit important difference is vital as the rates of inactive youths has been rising now for over a decade due to factors (that weren’t taken into account in the survey) like wider accessibility to education.

In other words, the denominator used to calculate the rate has been shrinking.’ Youths exiting the labour market to enter education is by no means a bad thing, but it DOES highlight the inevitability of figures showing the rise in youth unemployment!

This data has been presented by the ONS could well be regarded as misleading. The results and the fact of the matter of youth unemployment is that it is neither progressive nor regressive, but stoking the fire and producing results that might conjure a negative effect without presenting all the data, when it should be investigated further.

This distortion is particularly prevalent in the ONS‘s publication of unemployment rates amongst 16-17 year olds. It states that 36% of people in this age bracket are unemployed with 200,000 out of work and 350,000 in work. It fails to mention the 1 million other people in this ‘group’ that are in education.

If you add that to the denominator, the unemployment rate is practically halved to 15% and NOT 36% as the original ONS statistics suggest.

Data can be very misleading if it is not presented responsibly and in its entirety.

by Alex Lawton (@AlexandraLawton).

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About Alexandra Lawton

Having completed a degree at Durham University in Anthropology, i'm now doing a masters at City University in Broadcast Journalism. I am 23 years old.
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2 Responses to Youth unemployment: is it really as drastic as they say?

  1. Ed says:

    Great post. Thank you for highlighting this issue. I’m fed up with Labour harping on. I don’t think they would be so forthcoming IF they were in power! Harriet Harman was fined for careless driving. If only Labour could be fined for their handling of the country!

  2. Pingback: links for 2011-04-01 « Onlinejournalismtest's Blog

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