Young people's futures could be permanently 'scarred' by loming recession

Economists are warning that young people’s futures could be permanently “scarred” by what is likely to be a severe recession following the coronavirus pandemic, unless the government steps in to help.

Many graduates leave northern cities for London

As in previous recessions, thousands of talented young people in Yorkshire could be forced to take jobs they are overqualified for, or move to London - where the vast majority of private sector jobs are created - to get work in their chosen careers.

There are currently six unemployed people to every job vacancy in Yorkshire, compared with two to every vacancy in London, according to research from the Institute of Employment Studies carried out last week.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mike Hawking, policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said a recession would have different effects on different groups and be particularly problematic for disadvantaged young people and those who live in parts of Yorkshire with weaker economies.

He said: “When the economy reopens again, there are likely to be ‘scarring’ effects for young people, which often happen when there’s a recession or downturn. People who have entered the job market during a recession take longer to progress in their careers.

“Without targeted action, that ‘scarring’ effect on young people will happen again [after the pandemic].”

One economic problem for the region is how to retain the most talented young people.

Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at the Centre for Cities told the Yorkshire Post that the organisation’s research of Leeds in the aftermath of the 2008 recession showed that many graduates, particularly those with top grades from a Russell Group university, did move to London.

But this was not the whole story, he said.

“What we found was, of those cities that had a university, almost all of them, Leeds included, had a disproportionately large group of graduates working in the city at the end of the process than they had at the start, because people moved from rural areas to the city.”

One of these top graduates who has her sights set on the south is Isabel Parkinson, who graduated from Oxford last year with a degree in philosophy and German, and is currently doing a masters at Sheffield University.

The 23-year-old is living at her parents’ house in Doncaster but is keen to move back to Oxford, where it is much more likely she will get a translating job once lockdown is over.

She said: “I didn't necessarily expect to waltz straight into a job.

“But it's quite frustrating that this has got in the way especially when I've worked so hard throughout all my years in education.

“I'm applying for virtually everything I can and casting the net so wide, but there are just so few jobs.”

Delroy Beverley, chair of the Institute of Directors in Yorkshire and the North East, said there was always a risk young people would move out of the region but the internet has made things a lot easier for talented youngsters to succeed in their home towns by setting up businesses.

He said: “We don’t give young people enough credit. They’re more likely to take risks than older generations.”

He also said the government had a role to play in helping businesses find skilled workers in the north.

“There’s a perception that it’s more costly to set up a business in the north of England or harder to find talent but we’re doing fantastic things in the north, there’s just a shyness about it.

“We have so much talent here, we should be singing from the rooftops,” he added.