In the third quarter of 2009, there were 1,082,000, or 18 per cent., of 16 to 24-year-olds who were not in education, employment or training. That estimate comes from the labour force survey. The latest information for Northamptonshire is from the 2008 annual population survey, which estimates that there were 12,000, or 14 per cent., of people in that age group who were NEETs. However, those figures are not directly comparable with the England figure; the sample sizes are too small to give a constituency estimate.
In many ways, the severity of the recession has had its hardest impact on young people trying to enter the job market. I know from my own constituents the difficulties that many families across the Kettering parliamentary constituency are facing. What are the Government going to do to get our young people into work so that they can start their careers in gainful employment? If they cannot do that for young people, what training and education opportunities are the Government going to provide?
We have, of course, introduced the September guarantee, which means that every 16 or 17-year-old is offered a suitable place in education and training. We have rebuilt apprenticeships and we have signalled our commitment to apprenticeships for young people with the £2,500 golden hello for employers to provide up to 5,000 new places for 16 and 17-year-olds. The Government are doing a great deal to help young people who find themselves out of work, although I should say that the NEETs figures include many people who are not in that position, as only about 37 per cent. are actually seeking work or training.
When we debated this issue yesterday, the Government appeared totally complacent. With more than 1 million young people not in education, employment or training and with the second highest level of youth unemployment in Europe, this Government have let down a generation of young people. Is the Minister not ashamed? As we face another looming crisis this year on university applications, will he take up our proposals, which have been fully costed and funded, for an additional 10,000 university places?
We are neither ashamed nor complacent, and we will not take up that proposal for the reason I set out in yesterday’s debate—because it is not properly funded. Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman that the key issue is how quickly young people move out of unemployment and into work. Six month-plus 18-to-24 unemployment is currently 108,800; in 1997, it was 169,000; in 1993, it was 415,000; and in 1985, during the last Conservative Government, it was 600,000—six times as many people in that age group unemployed for six months or more. That is the difference between us and them.