A recent survey conducted by the Prince’s Trust has unearthed a troubling reality for unemployed young people in the UK, shedding light on the economic challenges they face when seeking employment.
According to the findings, many young individuals are being compelled to reject job offers due to the escalating costs associated with securing employment, including expenses for clothing and transportation.
The Prince’s Trust’s annual NatWest Youth Index for 2024, set to launch on Monday, emphasises the severity of the cost-of-living crisis, labelling it as a threat to the aspirations of an entire generation.
This marks the first time the index, which has been monitoring the wellbeing of young people since 2009, has delved into the impact of rising costs on the younger demographic.
Among the survey’s key revelations is the fact that one-third of respondents aged 16 to 25 stated they were unable to afford the necessary qualifications for their desired jobs. Shockingly, one in ten participants had been forced to decline a job offer due to financial constraints.
The cost-of-living crisis
Jonathan Townsend, the UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, expressed concern about the crippling effect of the cost-of-living crisis on education, employment, and daily life. He highlighted the disproportionate impact on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, stating that financial pressures were hindering their ability to pursue new opportunities or acquire the skills needed for their career ambitions.
The YouGov survey, which included 2,239 young participants, also revealed that nearly a fifth of respondents were planning to cut their education short to start earning money. Additionally, about 5 percent admitted to missing school or work in the past year due to an inability to afford transportation, a figure rising to nearly one in ten for those from lower-income backgrounds.
Concentration has also been impacted
Worryingly, over two-fifths of the surveyed young people reported that concerns about money had impeded their ability to concentrate at school. A concerning trend emerged as more than two-fifths of respondents stated that the cost-of-living crisis had a more detrimental impact on their lives than the pandemic.
Tara Cousins, who experienced almost a year of unemployment after university graduation, shared her struggles: “There were lots of jobs in the construction industry I wanted but couldn’t apply for because I couldn’t afford travel costs, smart clothes, or even a work bag.” She emphasised the difficulty in pursuing a professional passion when financial pressures take precedence over career ambitions.
The study also uncovered distressing figures on the emotional toll of the crisis, with one in ten young people reporting bullying due to their inability to cover everyday costs in the past year. This figure rose to more than one in five for those from less privileged backgrounds.
Notably, a fifth of respondents admitted to skipping meals to save money, and a third disclosed that they had refrained from seeing family or friends in the past year for financial reasons. More than two-fifths of young people acknowledged that financial concerns had seriously impacted their mental health.
The attainment gap is widening
Barry Fletcher, the chief executive of the Youth Futures Foundation, raised concerns about the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, pointing out that this could create larger barriers to employment for affected individuals.
Fletcher emphasised the long-term consequences of being Not in Education, Employment, or Training (Neet), predicting increased future unemployment rates and enduring mental and physical health impacts for those facing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.