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Youth Unemployment

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2018

7. What comparative assessment he has made of the level of youth unemployment in the UK and EU27 countries; and if he will make a statement. (908127)

Since 2010, the UK has seen a larger fall in youth unemployment than Germany, France and Italy combined. Today’s employment figures show that the youth unemployment rate is down to a record low, with the number having nearly halved since 2010.

It seems the message is simple: it is better to grow up in Lichfield than, say, Limoges or Lyon—does my right hon. Friend agree? If youth unemployment has fallen by 50% since 2010, how will she maintain that?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; I am sure it is nothing but fun growing up in Lichfield, with him as the local Member of Parliament. The reason we have such low youth unemployment is that we have expanded the number of apprenticeships, reformed employment to make it easier to take on staff, and reformed our welfare system to make sure that it always pays to go into work.

The evidence is that younger people are moving out of towns such as Wrexham, which I represent, and being dragged into the south-east of England and the south-east of Wales, because the opportunities for younger people in creative and dynamic industries are not being created in towns. What are the Government doing to address that?

I think it is good if young people have the opportunity to work and study across the country, and we should not say that people have to be kept in their place, as we often hear from the Labour party. By expanding broadband and roads and putting more money into infrastructure, we are making sure that every town in Britain can succeed.

It is perfectly open to the hon. Members for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) and for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) to take part in the exchanges on this question, to which their own rather later inquiries are entirely relevant.

8. Can the Minister update us on what analysis the Treasury has conducted of the effectiveness of the apprenticeship levy in helping young people get into high-paid roles once they finish their apprenticeships? (908128)

We are seeing a growing number of young people taking up high-quality apprenticeships, which is fantastic news. We were able at the Budget to improve flexibility, so that it is easier for small and medium-sized enterprises and companies in the supply chain to take on apprentices.

16. Young people are our future. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that today’s Office for National Statistics figures showing that youth unemployment has fallen by 24,000 is a sign that this Conservative Government are delivering the jobs for young people that they need? (908138)

My hon. Friend is right. It is surprising that we have heard nothing from Labour Members about today’s fantastic employment figures and record wage growth—the highest we have seen for a decade. The reason is the policies that this Government have pursued. We have the second highest youth employment rate in the G7, and we have been one of the fastest improvers.

Youth unemployment in the United Kingdom is sitting at about 3% below the equivalent figure for the rest of the European Union. The Chief Secretary puts that down to sound management of the UK economy. By a very similar margin, youth unemployment in Scotland is consistently lower than the equivalent figure for the rest of the United Kingdom. Surely that must mean that young people in Scotland have a better chance of gainful employment under a Scottish National party Government than they would if Ruth Davidson were First Minister.

I celebrate when the UK economy is doing well and I celebrate when the Scottish economy is doing well. I was recently in Scotland meeting the Scottish Finance Minister and talking about measures to improve growth. What I think will be interesting is to see, in tomorrow’s Scottish budget, whether the Scottish Government match the tax cuts that we have made across the rest of the UK—or will Scottish taxpayers end up paying more?

The Resolution Foundation has found that millennials’ weekly earnings are less than those of the previous generation at the same age, which is unprecedented. That is due to more insecure and low-paid jobs, and less job mobility. As well as stronger workers’ rights, halting the decline in business investment would help, but that needs business confidence. Will the Chief Secretary tell me why her Government are listening only to the European Research Group, not to the voice of business when it says that we need a permanent customs union?

The hon. Lady obviously has not seen today’s wages figures, which show that real pay grew by 0.8%, and we are seeing more and more young people getting into work.