HC Deb 31 January 1978 vol 943 cc222-3
1. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary or State for Employment what is the percentage of young people under the age of 25 years currently unemployed in England and in Wales, respectively.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)

This information is not available for England and Wales separately. The latest reliable estimates for Great Britain relate to July 1977, when 13.6 per cent. of those available for work aged under 25 were unemployed.

The July figure of course represents a particularly severe month, for it reflects the inclusion of about 240,000 school leavers. Since then, this number has fallen by over 180,000.

Mr. Hooson

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is widely believed that there is a major structural problem and that structural alterations are necessary in our modern industrial society before we can relieve the youth unemployment problem and prevent it from being sustained through a new era? Will he propose to his Cabinet colleagues that revenue from North Sea oil should be used partially to finance these structural changes in our society?

Mr. Booth

I am a little afraid of the term "structural," because some people use it to include demographic circumstances and others do not. Certainly, part of the problem arises from a structural change—the change in industrial demand for labour. Part of it also arises from the huge increase in the number of school leavers. I shall certainly put to my Cabinet colleagues the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that there should be a specific call upon the revenue from North Sea oil to deal with this problem. As a Government, we are already committed to doubling the provision for the 16-to-18 age group beginning in April this year, because so much of the high level of unemployment among those who are under 25 arises in the lower age group. I believe that we shall have a considerable impact on the problem and that we shall reduce the number of unemployed young people in the coming year.

Mr. Skinner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a reduction in youth unemployment can be achieved only by a planned Socialist change—by ensuring that we have early retirement at 60 and shorter working hours and by restoring cuts in public expenditure? Is he aware that he should be looking at the problem not with the Tories and the Liberals but in terms of a planned Socialist economy which will get these youngsters to work?

Mr. Booth

Certainly, all the things that my hon. Friend mentioned are important components in a total solution of our unemployment problem. In addition to that, however, we still have special measures to deal with the massive increase in the number of young people leaving school while structural changes are taking place in employment.

Mr. Bulmer

What construction would the Secretary of State advise young people to put on the headline A million new jobs by 1980, says Chancellor? Will he confirm that the Manpower Services Commission sees no chance of unemployment dropping below 1 million by 1980?

Mr. Booth

One of the pieces of advice I offer young people is to take every advantage of the training that will be offered by the youth opportunities programme, since, whatever new jobs will be forthcoming as a result of our successes in overcoming economic problems, a higher degree of training and a greater range of skills will be of advantage to young people.

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