Once these men stop looking for work, history suggests it’s much more difficult to entice them back. The share of young men who are unemployed for more than 12 months after giving up looking for work has grown from less than 50pc in 1998 to 70pc last year.
Many feel so detached from the world of work that they believe they’ll never get a job. A recent report by the City & Guilds found one in ten young people aged between 18 and 24 said they never intended to find work.
It’s a striking statistic, but Murphy says it’s too early to know if these people will ever enter employment. “The real worry is that there doesn’t really seem support for young people who leave education with a health problem. The fact that overall youth joblessness is quite low in historic terms has made people a bit complacent.”
It’s also unclear how these people are funding themselves. Around 43pc of 24 year-old men still live with their parents today compared with 56pc a couple of decades ago. They work fewer hours and have more spare cash than the previous generation. Morgan Stanley says they’ve helped drive a recent boom in luxury goods because they’re not paying rent or doing the weekly shop, while US economists have even found a link between worklessness and time spent playing video games.
Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of the City & Guilds, says that the perception that these people are part of a work-shy “snowflake generation” are unfounded. She says a combination of “academic snobbery” by employers who value graduates over school leavers and shrinking career prospects due to the pandemic means many leave school without any direction about their future. This has created a sense of despair among school leavers, particularly men.
“I think what’s happened is that instead of instilling in these young people a sense of opportunity, optimism and aspiration, we’ve done exactly the opposite. We don’t invest properly in careers advice and guidance, there aren’t very many role models for the sorts of jobs that are available within industries facing skills shortages. The research shows there is a direct correlation between people who don’t believe their education has equipped them with the skills they need to get a job and actual educational attainment at GCSE level.”
Once they leave school, young people are more likely than older workers to find insecure temporary jobs, agency and gig work, ONS data show.
Prospects for promotion among the lowest paid are low. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the number of single men on low incomes has doubled from 13pc to 26pc since the 1970s, with many of the lowest paid resorting to part time work.