Ed Miliband had some good lines ready for today’s prime minister’s questions. He decided to focus on youth unemployment, which recently topped 1 million people for the first time since records began.
Sensibly, he focused on long-term youth unemployment (over 12 months out of work, which is now at 260,000 people): both because Cameron would probably misinterpret the question and try to answer on overall youth unemployment (he did), and because the longer young people stay out of work, the harder it is for them to get back into the jobs market when the economy recovers.
Miliband decided to focus on the effect of scrapping Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, but Cameron was able to bat that away by referring to the Work Programme:
This Wednesday, unemployment among 16-24 year-olds is expected to top 1m people, its highest since records began in 1992. This has triggered a lot of anxiety and head scratching in government circles, prompting a whole week of events this week focusing on young people. That began today with David Cameron’s article about schools that are not failing but neverthless are “coasting” and need to be improved.
Why is youth unemployment so high? The first thing to say is obvious: there is a recession. It is true that youth unemployment has risen faster than overall unemployment, but this always happens in a recession, for two reasons: 1) employers are reluctant to lay off older workers, because of higher redundancy payments and “last-in-first-out” policies; 2) the first thing many organisations in difficult times do is stop recruiting, especially younger people.