Young people increasingly in low-paid jobs, despite rising education

Abigail Fenton
·Writer
·2-min read
Young Brits highly-concentrated in ow-paid jobs, study finds. (Brooke Cagle/Unsplash)
Young Brits are highly-concentrated in low-paid jobs, study finds. Photo: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Young Brits are increasingly concentrated in low-paid jobs, despite rising levels of education, a study has found.

Men born in each decade since 1950 and women born since 1985 have begun their careers in jobs further down the wage ladder than those in the previous decade, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found.

This is despite rising levels of education among young people, with 2019 government statistics showing more than half of young Brits now go on to higher education for the first time — 20 years after Tony Blair set this target as a Labour policy in 2009.

More than ever, young people are starting out in low-paid jobs, such as bar staff, waiters, call centre workers and kitchen assistants, and relying on rapid progression for their wages to catch up, the research funded by the Alan Turing Institute found.

Trends indicated the speed of progression had been rising before COVID-19 but the coronavirus crisis is likely to force trends downward again, the IFS said.

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Additionally, trends showed progression remained slow for men born since 1985, who begin work further down the career ladder and take longer to climb it.

“The overall mix of jobs in the UK has changed radically over the last four decades, with highly-skilled occupations much more prevalent in the modern service-based economy than in the past,” said IFS deputy director Robert Joyce.

“Despite rising education levels, the starting occupations of young people have defied this trend. They have increasingly been concentrated on the bottom rungs of the occupational ladder.

“For young men, this shift has been occurring for a few decades. For young women, it represents a sharp reversal for women born since 1985.

“Compounding this, we also find some support for the perception that there are increasing barriers to job progression. The pandemic threatens to exacerbate some of the concerning trends. Job progression is likely to be much harder in an uncertain economic environment with reduced hiring.”

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The government’s Plan for Jobs — outlined in the summer Budget — “ aims to ensure there are options for young people entering the world of work, including through our Kickstart Scheme and increasing participation in our sector-based work academies,” said minister for employment Mims Davies.

The Kickstart Scheme will fund the creation of “high-quality” jobs for young people at a high risk of long-term unemployment, the policy states.

Davies said: “We all have a role to play in ensuring young people can progress, with many employers offering accelerated routes through traineeships and apprenticeships.

“As we emerge from this health emergency, we are working with business to make sure no generation is left behind.”