Around 12 per cent of school leavers born in 1990 faced challenges, such as extended periods of unemployment and job instability, compared to only 4 per cent of those born three decades earlier.
And, across all the cohorts studied, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely than their advantaged peers to experience these conditions at the beginning of their careers.
Nevertheless, over the same period, young women went from being more likely to experience these employment challenges than their male counterparts, to being less likely. Ethnic minority teenagers also became less likely to experience this instability than their white peers.
Jake Anders and Richard Dorsett, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), undertook the cross-cohort analysis using information on more than 30,000 people taking part in the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), The Youth Cohort Study (YCS) and Next Steps.
The researchers examined cohort members’ month-to-month employment and education records for 29 months after they reached 16.
“Youth unemployment in the UK is an important issue, not least because making a successful transition from education into the labour market is important for young people’s long-term economic success. Periods of unemployment during these early years may have long-term scarring effects on later employment and earnings prospects,” Anders explains.
The study, based on work funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, also reveals that over 9 in 10 of those born in 1958 went directly from school to work, compared to only 4 in 10 of those born in 1990. Unsurprisingly, those 16-year-olds continuing their education grew from just 4 per cent of those born in 1958 to more than half of teenagers born in 1990.
“Our research has highlighted important changes that have occurred in the labour market over the past 30 years. These are long-term trends that economic recovery will not necessarily alter.
“There remains a clear role for the government to introduce labour market policies that can help to smooth the transition between education and employment,” Anders concludes.
Read the full paper
What young English people do once they reach school-leaving age: A cross-cohort comparison for the last 30 years, by Jake Anders and Richard Dorsett is the latest working paper to be published by the UCL IOE’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies.