New research has found that youngsters who grew up in poverty are less likely to be able to find jobs than their peers with equivalent qualifications.

The study from charity group Impetus revealed that children from more affluent backgrounds were 50% more likely to be employed or in education than poorer children with the same qualifications. They believe this is due to what they describe as a “youth jobs gap”.

An Indicator for Being out of Work

Children who received free school meals were more likely to end up NEET  - Not in Education, Employment or Training - after leaving school, according to Impetus. As many as one in four children were NEET compared to just 13% of those who didn’t have free school meals. 

The study went on to conclude that those who didn’t grow up in poverty were 50% more likely to have secured employment or further education in early adulthood. The charity believes that a good education isn’t behind the statistics as poorer children with top grades still struggled to match up to their better-off peers.

Regional differences were also noticed in the study with those in the north much more disadvantaged than children in the south east. The differences were similar, with a child in the north east of England 50% more likely to end up NEET than one in the capital.

The figures were drawn directly from those recorded by the Education Department.

Misleading Unemployment Data

The chief executive of Impetus, Andy Ratcliffe warned of the dangers of being misled by the official figures on youth unemployment which paint a rosy picture. Mr Ratcliffe said that gathering the data from the Education Department had allowed them to interrogate the information in more detail to understand what was really taking place.

Although it’s true that overall, youth unemployment is dropping there are a number of pockets within the headline numbers that don’t bode quite so well. Certain parts of the country and children from less affluent economic groups aren’t managing to secure the same success.

Mr Ratcliffe said that children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggled to gain the same qualifications as their peers but even when they did manage to do so, the outcome was still below expected.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research assisted with the study, and agreed with the assessment by Impetus. A spokesperson said that they had uncovered “evidence” which pointed to regional differences in successfully tackling the challenges that children from a disadvantaged background face.

Government Response

Mike Amesbury, Shadow Employment Minister described the research as a “wake-up call” and urged the government to take action. Mr Amesbury described the “disadvantages” that many poorer children had to overcome when looking for work, leading to them becoming caught in a cycle of low-paid, low-skill jobs.

The Local Government Association also acknowledged the present failings and suggested a combined skills and employment service led by the local authority would produce better results, allowing colleges, employers and young adults to work together more effectively.