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Posted By Heather Ette, 08 May 2019

Establishing the Employment Gap

Disadvantaged children who qualify for free school meals are twice as likely to be out of work in later life than their better-off peers, and even when they get good qualifications at school the employment gap remains, according to research.

A report by Impetus, a venture philanthropy charity that aims to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds establishes for the first time an employment gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better-off peers.  26% of those on FSM were not in education, employment, or training (NEET) after leaving school, compared with only 13% of non-FSM youngsters.

The study says young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to get good qualifications, but even when they have similar qualifications to their better-off peers, they are still 50% more likely to be out of education and employment as young adults.

The research is based on analysis of longitudinal education outcomes data from the Department for Education, which reveals the impact of growing up in a disadvantaged family on life chances and connects pupils’ school records with their subsequent journey into employment.

The report states: “It is well known that disadvantaged young people have worse qualification outcomes than their better-off peers. But qualification alone is not enough to explain the difference in NEET rates between disadvantaged young people and their better-off peers.

“Disadvantaged young people are around 50% more likely to be NEET than their similarly qualified but better-off peers. This is true at all levels of qualification and regardless of age. This means that half the gap in NEET rates between disadvantaged young people and their better-off peers can be explained by qualification – but half cannot.”

The study also shows that where children grow up affects their life chances – it finds that a disadvantaged young person in north-east England is 50% more likely to end up NEET than a disadvantaged young person in London.

Andy Ratcliffe, the CEO of Impetus, said: “We are breaking a fundamental promise to young people in this country. We tell them: ‘Study hard, get your qualifications and good jobs will follow.’

“For many young people this is true. But for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds it isn’t. They are less likely to get those qualifications and, even when they do, less likely to benefit.”

Dr Stefan Speckesser from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which conducted the analysis, said the study showed that some local areas were more successfully tackling the negative effects of disadvantage, which are unrelated to education success, on young people’s school-to-work transitions. “From this point of view, the analysis of large data offers a great potential to see where local actors can achieve better outcomes and to learn from good practice,” he said.

A government spokesperson said: “Young people are participating in education and training at their highest rate since consistent records began and the latest figures show that the overall proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) was at 6.3%, the lowest rate on record.

“We are working closely with schools to assist 12- to 16-year-olds who have been identified as most likely to be at risk of becoming NEET. Jobcentres also help school pupils with career planning and link them up with local businesses for work experience placements. We also provide support for young people after they leave school to equip them with the skills and experience they need to progress.”

You can read the full report here

For more information about Impetus’s Research and Briefings contact Sam Windett, Director of Policy, Impetus–

Sam Windett will be speaking at the ERSA Youth Employment Forum on 6th June.

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