A recent study by the Prince’s Trust has uncovered a disheartening reality for the UK’s unemployed young population, with many forced to decline job opportunities due to the financial burden of associated costs. The annual NatWest Youth Index 2024, set to launch on Monday, highlights the escalating cost of living as a significant obstacle to the career aspirations of those aged 16 to 25.
This marks the first time the index, monitoring the wellbeing of young people since 2009, has delved into the impact of increased prices on the younger demographic. The findings expose a “crippling” effect on education, employment, and daily living.
The study, conducted by YouGov and encompassing 2,239 participants, indicates that a third of young individuals in this age group cannot afford the qualifications necessary for their desired jobs. Shockingly, one in 10 has had to reject job offers due to financial constraints.
Nearly 20% of respondents disclosed intentions to truncate their education to expedite entry into the workforce and start earning income. Moreover, 5% admitted to missing school or work in the past year because they couldn’t afford transportation, a figure that rises to nearly one in 10 among those from less affluent backgrounds.
Worryingly, over two-fifths of participants reported that financial concerns had hindered their concentration at school. Jonathan Townsend, UK Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, voiced concerns, stating, “This year’s youth index highlights the stark consequences that the cost of living crisis is having on young people’s education, employment, and wellbeing, threatening the aspirations of an entire generation.”
A graduate who spent almost a year unemployed due to financial constraints shares struggles. “It’s been a shock to graduate, to do everything right, and then realize that pursuing my professional passion has to come a far second to simply finding a job I can afford to take,” the individual noted.
The research exposes the harsh realities faced by young people, with one in 10 reporting instances of bullying related to their inability to cover everyday costs in the past year. This figure rises to more than one in five among those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The financial strain extends beyond employment, with a fifth of respondents admitting to skipping meals to save money in the past 12 months. A third revealed they had curtailed social interactions with family or friends for the same reason.
Alarming statistics reveal that half of the young population believes the cost of living crisis has had a more adverse impact on their lives than the pandemic. Additionally, over two-fifths of respondents claim that concerns about money have significantly impacted their mental health.
Barry Fletcher, Chief Executive of the Youth Futures Foundation, highlights the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, exacerbated by the cost of living crisis. The gap has increased by 3.6% for GCSE students and 6.7% for those in 16 to 19 education since before the pandemic, reaching the highest disparity since 2012.
Fletcher expresses concerns that these financial barriers may impede young people from securing employment and high-quality work. “One of the most glaring consequences of the cost of living crisis is that the associated costs of a job – or even staying in education – are forcing young people to become or remain Neet [not in education, employment or training],” he warns.
In conclusion, the Prince’s Trust study illuminates the profound impact of the rising cost of living on the younger generation’s educational pursuits, employment opportunities, and overall well-being. As the UK grapples with these challenges, addressing the financial barriers faced by young people becomes imperative for fostering a more inclusive and promising future.