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David Miliband calls for action over looming youth unemployment 'crisis' NEETS INCREASING FASTEST IN WALES, HIS COMMISSION FINDS.

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

A COMMISSION chaired by defeated Labour leadership hopeful David Miliband yesterday warned there are now 11,325 more young people claiming benefits in Wales than there were before the recession.

The former minister in Gordon Brown's government will today meet party activists in Cardiff and warn of a looming "crisis" in youth unemployment.

His report states that the proportion of young people on Jobseeker's Allowance has almost doubled from 4% to 7% - and the number claiming for a year or more is more than six times higher than in January 2008.

The Commission on Youth Unemployment also presented evidence showing Wales has had the largest increase in Britain in the share of Neets (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training). The report, Youth Unemployment: The Crisis We Cannot Afford, shows that this group increased in size in Wales by 8.8% between 2003 and 2010. Scotland's share went up by just 4.2%, and Merseyside had the lowest percentage climb at just 0.3%.

The document, sponsored by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, states: "The number of Neets in the UK is alarmingly high; even at its lowest point in 2004, approximately 13% of 16 to 24-year-olds were unemployed or economically inactive and not in any form of education, employment or training. "The number has been consistently rising since 2004, and although the effect of the 2008 recession was relatively muted, is now above 17%.

"The rise appears to have been predominantly amongst white, British males, and a number of Government Office Regions - notably Wales, the West Midlands, the East, the South West and Yorkshire - appear to have contributed more significantly more than others." The authors, whose conclusions are based on research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, fear that the Neet population could "potentially vastly increase" if there is a further recession and changes in England to the educational maintenance allowance across Great Britain have a negative effect.

Mr Miliband wants anyone who is on the Work Programme for a year to be guaranteed a part-time job.

He said: "I think there are three really big problems. First we have got to prepare young people for a different world of work and we have got to prepare them better.

"Secondly, if they do become unemployed we help them back into work faster and with more intensive help, and thirdly we have got to make sure there is proper demand for labour among young people. We would like wage subsidies brought in for young people, we would like to see apprenticeships not just expanded but organised on a national scale.

"We also think that young people can help each other. We are going to say today that any young person in work for over a year should mentor a young person who is out of work for over year because this problem is really chronic and this is something we can tackle."

He rejected the claim that immigration has added to youth unemployment.

"We have looked at the allegation it was benefit rates that was causing unemployment, that it was the minimum wage, or that it was migration, and what we found was that some of the areas with the highest young unemployment had the lowest levels of migration from outside the UK.

"We didn't find the connection that says it's immigration that has caused unemployment. It just didn't stack up in the economic statistics that were done in an independent way."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The Government agrees that reducing youth unemployment is a clear priority. Following on from the tailored support of the Work Programme, the pounds 1bn youth contract announced in November will ensure that young people receive the help, training and skills they need to enter the work place."

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said: "Youth unemployment has been rising since 2004 - under the former Labour government, and well before the recession took hold, and it has clearly not got any better under the present Con-Dem government.

The right approach is to develop employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people.

"Plaid have called for increased capital spending which helps the construction industry and cuts to tourism VAT, both industries which disproportionately employ young people, including those who might not have academic qualifications."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "In our Programme for Government, we have introduced new employment programmes to support young people to gain valuable training and work experience; we are increasing the number of Apprentices and investing in skills; and we will be implementing Jobs Growth Wales from April 1, 2012 which will create 4,000 jobs per year for young people aged 16-24."

CAMPAIGN AHEAD OF ELECTIONS Mr Miliband will today join Labour candidates to campaign on the doorstep in Cardiff in preparation for the local council elections in May.

A Welsh Labour spokesperson said "This is a very welcome campaign visit during which David Miliband will listen to concerns about youth unemployment in Wales. He will also hear about the action being taken by our Welsh Labour Government in delivering the Jobs Growth Wales fund.

"That fund is providing 4,000 opportunities for young people each year as part of Labour's fight against a lost generation."

CAPTION(S):

* David Miliband will meet Labour activists in Cardiff today after his Commission on Youth Unemployment painted a bleak picture of Wales PICTURE: David Jones/PA
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 7, 2012
Words:901
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