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Economic Justice

Young women trapped by low pay and no pay

Young women are being written off at 18 instead of being allowed to contribute fully to society, according to a new report from Young Women’s Trust calling for a step change in the way young women’s worklessness is addressed.


‘Scarred for Life – Creating a Working Future for Young Women’  highlights the fact that many more young women than young men are not earning or learning; 428,000 compared to 310,000. They will be NEET (not in education, employment or training) for longer and the impact will be deeper, forcing many to endure a lifetime of poorly paid, insecure, jobs and unemployment.


Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, said: “Young women are at greatest risk of being trapped by low pay and no pay. All attempts to address young people’s employment need to take gender into account or they will continue to fail young women. We ignore gender at our peril.”


The report is the result of Young Women’s Trust’s year-long Scarred for Life? Inquiry, which has gathered evidence from hundreds of young women and dozens of organisations.


Creating a Working Future for Young Women criticises the failure of successive governments to alter the fact that over the last decade an average of more than 130,000 more women than men have been NEET.  Young Women’s Trust is calling on the next government, along with employers and education providers, to commit to making a difference for young women. Personal testimonies from young women brought together for the Inquiry reveal the complexity and range not just of their practical challenges but the emotional ones they face too. Evidence revealed that many suffer diminished self-confidence and feel judged and denigrated.


The Inquiry found that young women want to work but many need specific support to enable them to do so. Those young women who left school without the qualifications needed to find work, or who have been funnelled into a narrow range of courses training them for jobs that don’t exist, need to be given a second chance.  Young women who care for children and family members need additional measures to allow them to enter into paid employment or to gain qualifications and skills for the future.


The report calls for young women to be able to access Further Education when they need it and to ensure a broad range of apprenticeships are a genuine option for more young women by removing any formal entry criteria (usually five A*- C grade GCSEs).


Young Women’s Trust are asking for more accountability from central government, with responsibility for young people’s employment no longer split between different departments and a new Minister for Youth Employment appointed. Much better data should be published, particularly about young people who are ‘economically inactive’, to make it possible to plan what needs to be done locally.


Dr Carole Easton added: “We have been staggered by how many organisations simply didn’t realise that so many more young women than young men aren’t earning or learning – not because young women do not want to but because insurmountable barriers and challenges are placed in their way.


“Many face a lifetime in poorly paid, insecure jobs either because they were funnelled towards them on leaving school, because they didn’t get the grades they needed at school and are never given a second chance, or because, it would seem, in 21st Century Britain needing to care for a child or relative often remains an insurmountable barrier to work or study.


“Aside from the human tragedy of young lives being written off before they have begun, it makes no sense for a country with more skilled jobs than it can fill and seeking to reduce dependency on benefits, not to do all it can to allow young women to fully contribute to the economy and to society.”


Young Women’s Trust supports and represents over one million women aged 16-30 trapped by low or no pay and facing a life of poverty. The charity provides services and runs campaigns to make sure that the potential and talents of young women don’t go to waste.