Posted on 17 October 2012
With more than one million 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed ahead of the latest unemployment figures published today, the study looked at the challenges facing young people in one of the toughest jobs markets in decades. The research found vacancies closed to candidates within days, and in some cases, hours.
Many jobseekers are prepared to take any job, but it’s hard to make work pay when many jobs offer short hours and low pay
Professor Becky Tunstall
In three UK cities, one with a weak supply of jobs, one with a better supply and one in-between, researchers sent 2,000 job applications from fictional candidates with at least five good GCSEs and relevant work experience to 667 real vacancies (sales assistants, cleaners, office administrators and kitchen hands).
Even in the stronger job market, there were 24 unemployed people chasing each retail vacancy available through Jobcentre Plus, and 50 for each office vacancy. In the weaker job market area, the figures were 66 and 44 respectively.
A 22-year-old man in the medium job market described taking his CV into a shop: “The other worker who wasn’t a manager threw it in the bin, because people are trying to protect their own jobs…it’s dog-eat-dog at the moment.”
The study was led by the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy and also involved researchers from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics.
The researchers also found:
Transport proved a big barrier for young people, with applicants reliant on public transport severely hindered. While current policy requires jobseekers to look further afield (up to 90 minutes away), it does not necessarily succeed in getting more people into work. Young people were willing to consider jobs at such distance, but the research found it puts jobseekers into competition with others who are closer.
Lead author, Professor Becky Tunstall, Director of the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, said: “Many jobseekers are prepared to take any job, but it’s hard to make work pay when many jobs offer short hours and low pay. Applicants face huge barriers when they take account of costs such as travel and childcare.”
The report suggests jobseekers would benefit from extra intelligence and local knowledge from their Jobcentre Plus advisers about employers’ recruitment and selection practices to enable better targeting of applications.
However, even with this support, applying for entry-level work in the current climate is a thankless task for many young unemployed people, particularly if they live in weak job market areas.
Young people had responded to repeat rejection by volunteering, improving their qualifications and turning to friendship networks to enhance their job search.
Chris Goulden, Head of Poverty at JRF, said: “It’s important we have measures that provide more full-time, decent-paying jobs that can ensure work pays. A lack of success in the jobs market saps confidence, demotivates and leaves a scar across a generation of young people, while part-time, low-pay work traps people in poverty.
“On the day the latest unemployment statistics are released, this report makes for grim reading for young people. The intense competition shows the main problem is more fundamental - a major shortage of jobs.”