The share of young people who are not in employment, education or training has dropped over the past decades but more have stopped searching for a job, research shows.
The over 25% decline in youth worklessness since the mid-1990s is predominantly down to falling inactivity among young women, with inactivity among young men now rising, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. Inactivity is when a workless person is not looking for work.
The report found that youth worklessness fell by 300,000 between 1995 and 2021, from 1.1 million to 800,000. Young women accounted for 280,000 of this decline, with overall worklessness falling by just 20,000 among young men.
Falling worklessness among women has been driven primarily by lower rates of young parenthood, as well as an increase in the number of women who choose to combine parenting with work.
Louise Murphy, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Back in the 1990s, widespread worklessness among young people was a major social and economic problem.
"Welcome progress has been made since then, with youth worklessness now down by more than a quarter, and young women making the biggest strides.
“But there are troubling signs for young men who have seen inactivity rates – and the risk of prolonged worklessness that comes with them – increase.
The foundation’s research finds that the proportion of workless young men who are in that situation for more than a year rose from 56% to 70% between 1995 and 2021.
Mental health problems are key part of the growth in health issues that explain inactivity in young people.
“Rising inactivity among young men has been driven by an increase in people suffering from long-term ill-health or a disability, with mental health problems in particular increasing the chance of young people becoming workless, and remaining workless for longer.
“Unless we address these challenges now, there is a risk that the welcome progress made in recent decades could soon go into reverse, with widespread youth worklessness becoming a major problem in Britain once again,” Murphy added.
The research shows that among young people who become workless, those with a common mental health disorder are 27% more likely to remain workless for at least a year, compared to those without one.