Brexit could add to high youth jobless rates in UK cities, charity warns


More than a quarter of young people in many UK cities are unemployed, potentially undermining efforts to bring about "inclusive growth" following Brexit, a new study has warned.

A report by the charity EY Foundation says "stark variations" in youth unemployment levels across the UK could have a knock-on effect on local economic growth.

But the study found youth unemployment had dropped markedly over the last five years, and that levels are back to where they were before the global financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK as a whole in 2015 was 14.4%, slightly lower than the 17.9% who were unemployed in London.

The North East was found to have the highest unemployment rate for the age group of anywhere in the UK, at 18.3%, compared with just 11.2% in the East of England, the lowest rate.

But the report, entitled The Employment Landscape For Young People In The UK, found that youth unemployment is consistently far higher in cities than in the broader regional areas.

In Middlesbrough 27.3% of youths were unemployed, while in Bradford the figure was 26%, compared with just 15% for the wider Yorkshire and Humber region.

In Swansea it was 27.3%, against 17.4% for Wales, while in Wolverhampton it was 27%, compared with 15.5% for the West Midlands region as a whole.

Data for March to May 2016 also suggests that there are 142,000 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK who are unemployed, along with 475,000 18 to 24-year-olds, accounting for 28.7% and 11.6% of the age ranges respectively.

This shows a steady recovery from 2011, when unemployment for 16 to 17-year-olds peaked at 40% and for 18 to 24-year-olds at 20%.

The findings come after commentators warned the vote to leave the EU had exposed deep social divisions across the country.

In her first statement on the steps of Downing Street, the new Prime Minister Theresa May promised to "make Britain a country that works for everyone".

Mark Gregory, EY's chief economist, said: "Youth unemployment rates have fallen from the peaks we saw during the recession, when 40% of the UK's 16-17 year olds were facing unemployment.

However, a stubbornly high number of young people remain excluded from the labour market, which could be further exacerbated by a period of weaker economic growth in these uncertain times ahead.

"History has shown us that young people are more exposed to economic volatility and industry restructuring than the population as a whole.

"The skills agenda is fast becoming one of the biggest priorities for UK business, with Brexit also likely to impose some restrictions to the free movement of labour in the future.

"It has never been more important to ensure the UK has the right mix of skills and talent, both nationally and locally, and young people are core to this."