Two-thirds of workers laid off during the pandemic were under 25, official figures show

CIPD warns government employers need better support and incentives to recruit trainees, as young people fare worst from the economic fallout of Covid

Young people are among those most significantly impacted by the pandemic, official figures published today (23 March) have shown, prompting calls for greater government support for employers to take on apprentices and trainees.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest Labour market overview, under-25s made up nearly two-thirds of the fall in people in paid employment seen since February 2020, constituting more than 60 per cent of the 693,000 payroll employees who have lost their jobs since that date.

Payrolled employment among those aged 24 and under was found to be down 11 per cent on pre-crisis levels, compared to a 1 per cent fall across all other age groups.

However, overall employment continued to increase gradually. There were 68,000 more people in payrolled employment in February 2021 compared with January 2021 – the third consecutive monthly increase – and redundancies in the three months to January 2021 slowed to 11 people per thousand employees (compared to 12.3 people in the three months to December 2020.

CIPD senior labour market adviser Gerwyn Davies welcomed the news that redundancies were continuing to fall while the number of employees was increasing “very modestly”, but warned that today’s figures confirmed the “fragility” of the labour market and indicated that talk of a strong employment recovery was premature.

Moreover, he said the figures laid bare the significant impact the pandemic had had on young people and urged both employers and the government to act.

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“A plan to support young people with training and job opportunities has to be at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery,” he said. “As employers rebuild their workforces, they must consider not only paid work though apprenticeships and jobs, but also volunteering and work experience placements for young people.”

He urged the government to support this by making apprenticeship incentives more generous and better targeted at 16 to 24-year-olds, as well as making more employers aware of apprenticeships and the Kickstart scheme, adding: “We also need to see the apprenticeship levy reformed into a more flexible training levy to meet employers and workers' skills development needs more effectively.”

Reacting to the figures, Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, warned that the extent of the impact still isn’t known as the furlough scheme has protected workers from renewed effects of the current lockdown, stating that “the jobs market is largely on ice as we await a proper recovery to get underway and the phasing out of the job retention scheme to reveal the extent of lasting labour market damage”.

Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive Neil Carberry agreed, adding that while the growth in temporary employment showed how tempting it is to get people into work quickly, many will need support transitioning into the new roles that emerge. “Radical reform of the skills system – including the failed apprenticeship levy – will be vital,” he said.