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Youth Unemployment

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2014

Youth unemployment is falling, and the rate for the number of young people not in education, employment or training is at its lowest since 2008. However, we are not complacent. We are helping up to 500,000 young people into education and employment through the Youth Contract, funding jobcentres to help young adults who are not at school to find work through training, and piloting a new mandatory skills scheme for young jobseekers without basic maths or English.

When the Chancellor came to my constituency—where youth unemployment has fallen 32% since the general election—to launch his employment allowance, he met representatives of the excellent Ridgeway Garages, who told him that they would be employing more people and hoped to employ more young people. They also came to last week’s job fair and recruited five people, including young people. However, many businesses were unaware of the existence of the employment allowance. What steps will the Chancellor take to promote that excellent scheme?

Let me begin by praising my hon. Friend for holding another successful job fair in his constituency. It is a concept that he pioneered, helping many young people to find jobs. HMRC has already held discussions with businesses, charities and payroll software providers about the employment allowance, and will use its key publications and communications to advertise it further. It will also work with key stakeholders to ensure that the abolition of employer national insurance contributions for under-21s, which will come into effect in April 2015, is delivered effectively.

The Government clearly oppose the implementation of a national youth jobs guarantee, but given that long-term youth unemployment is twice as high in the black country as it is elsewhere, surely the Minister must accept the case for a specific, targeted plan to guarantee young people in the area the chance of a job or training so that they can start their careers.

When the last Government were in office, unemployment among young people rose by 45%, so we are not going to listen to any ideas that Labour Members may have about it. The best way of cutting unemployment, whether long-term or otherwise, is to establish a growing economy that creates jobs. In the last four years, our economy has seen 1.3 million jobs created, and more people employed than at any other time in history.

Youth unemployment in Dover and Deal has fallen by 25% in the last year, having increased by 50% in the last Parliament. Does that not show that it is important for us not just to have a long-term economic plan that is working but to do more to repair the damage done by the last Labour Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to stick to our long-term plan to ensure that we have a growing economy that creates jobs and gives people the financial stability that they need, and the biggest risk to that plan would be our adoption of Labour’s policies of more borrowing, more spending and more debt.

Unemployment among young people in my constituency remains stubbornly high, at just under 500, but under-employment is also a big issue. Many people are in insecure employment, on zero-hours contracts, and barely managing to struggle on the minimum wage. Will the Minister make an assessment of under-employment and develop a strategy to address it?

Unemployment in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency rose in all categories under the last Government, and youth unemployment has fallen by 33% so far under the present Government. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming that. He is right to point out that we must do much more to deal with the problem, but I am sure he supports the efforts that the Government have made in regard to apprenticeships. There have been 1.5 million apprenticeship starts over the last four years.