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Economic Justice

Major new study finds qualifications are not protecting hundreds of thousands of young women from being out of work

New research from the Young Women’s Trust has found that hundreds of thousands of young women without a job are being written off as economically inactive and going without support to find employment, despite many of them having good qualifications and wanting to work.

264,000 women aged 16 to 24 in the UK are economically inactive (not working or currently able to look for work) and not in education or training – 37,000 more than men. Most say they want to work, either now or in the long-term, but they are not included in official unemployment statistics and not given the right Government support to prepare for work.

The ‘Young, Female and Forgotten?’ report – the most comprehensive study of its kind and the culmination of a two-year project which included in-depth interviews with 57 young women, discussions with experts and new analysis of official data – finds that having children has a greater impact on women’s likelihood to be in work than their level of education.

The report reveals that new mothers and those with a dependent child are six times more likely to be economically inactive than those without children. In contrast, having children does not impact on whether or not men are in work.

Even having a university qualification does not protect women from being out of work. The report finds that women with degrees are as likely to end up economically inactive as men with no qualifications, often due to the impact of having children and a lack of suitable jobs, including on a part-time or flexible basis.

The research, co-funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and carried out with Professor Sue Maguire of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath, also shows that mental ill-health, which affects more women than men, increases the risk of becoming economically inactive – but that there is a lack of support available.

The report exposes the extent to which many young women who are out of work are isolated, with limited support networks, and struggling to get by financially. This can lead to low self-esteem, low confidence and poor mental health – making job-hunting even harder. Being out of work, training and job-hunting for more than a year has been shown to limit a young person’s chances of gaining employment in the future.

Young Women’s Trust is calling for the Government to take action including:

– Providing one-to-one personalised support to young women to help them with their next steps, including finding work
– Reducing the time taken to process welfare claims, including Universal Credit
– Including investment in jobs and skills for young women in the Industrial Strategy, including flexible working hours, better pay and flexible childcare to help women become economically active
– Extending the 30 hours of free childcare to people on zero hours contracts, apprentices and students
– Replacing European Social Fund provision that currently supports local employment initiatives