Petition launched as UK at risk of “1980s levels of youth unemployment”

Andrew Kersley
© Gary L Hider/

Gordon Brown has launched a petition promoting the policy of a new job guarantee scheme covering all young people and warned that the UK is at risk of returning to “1980s levels of long-term youth unemployment”.

The new UK parliamentary petition highlighting youth unemployed was lodged by the former Prime Minister’s ‘Alliance for Full Employment’ project, which has the support of local Labour leaders from across the regions and nations.

It calls on the government to create a fully-funded jobs guarantee scheme that would upscale the ‘kickstart’ programme and other youth job support and training schemes to help cope with the economic impact of coronavirus.

The petition follows estimates that the number of young people without a job this month will have hit one million. Research from the AFFE has highlighted that a total of 1.5 million youth placements may be needed over the next year.

Gordon Brown said: “One million young people out of work is grim news. And a devastating blow to the confidence and self-worth of every single one of those young people. So there are a million reasons to sign this petition.

“Unless the government acts fast and gets ahead of the youth unemployment crisis and creates a desperately needed prospects protection plan for young people, I fear we will need to create 1.5 million work or training places.

“But this year’s health pandemic does not have to wreck the job prospects of a whole generation. The good news for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor is they don’t have to wait to find a vaccine against joblessness…

“We all know the health pandemic is hurting young people. Our petition is a way for young people to allow their concerns for their futures to be heard. By signing and by sharing it, the people of Britain can make the government listen to them.

“We urgently need to get ahead of the surging unemployment curve. Otherwise, long Covid will also mean 1980s levels of long-term youth unemployment. The time to act to stop that is now.”

The petition is backed by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, the TUC’s Frances O’Grady, the general secretaries of Unite and TSSA, regional mayors Steve Rotheram, Andy Burnham, Dan Jarvis and Jamie Driscoll.

It demands an extension to the ‘kickstart’ scheme, which currently only helps those who have been out of work or education for six months. Those entering the scheme today would not get supported beyond May 2021.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak initially announced the ‘kickstart’ programme in July. The programme sees the government subsidise 100% of the wage costs for businesses to hire unemployed young people in new jobs for a minimum of 25 hours a week.

Labour has welcomed the new scheme but criticised the government for failing to lay out an adequate way to prove these ‘kickstart’ jobs will actually be new positions or explain how the scheme will target those most in need of jobs.

The new jobs petition on the UK parliament website will need to hit 10,000 signatures to earn a response from the government and reach 100,000 signatures in order to be considered for a House of Commons debate.

The AFFE has put forward several other recommendations to deal with the issue of rising youth unemployment:

  • “Provision of quality work experience – not a return to the youth opportunity programmes (YOPs) or youth training schemes of the 1980s;
  • “Training geared to new jobs, like in the care sector, IT and logistics, jobs linked to the recovery from lab technicians and contact tracers to care workers and teaching assistants not training for continued unemployment;
  • “Help with job searches – a vital element of getting into work, as demonstrated by the 2009 future jobs fund;
  • “A wage subsidy in the order of a £100 a week for six months for employers to take a young person on full-time.”

Commenting on the new petition, Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram said: “The coronavirus has presented us with a series of massive economic challenges, chief amongst them being a looming crisis in unemployment.

“No-one in Liverpool city region who remembers the youth unemployment of the 1980s wants to sit back and watch another generation wasted. Our combined local authorities have the skills needed and the on-the-ground know-how to help…

“We in the regions are shouting for more government help. Getting government to listen is not easy. But 100,000 signatures calling for a jobs guarantee for all young people cannot be ignored and will force a parliamentary debate.”

The AFFE was launched by the former Prime Minister with the support of First Minister Drakeford and various metro mayors in September and calls on the government to focus more on job creation in the wake of coronavirus.

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