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Employment rate for young people declined faster than for older workers since 2004

Released: 29 February 2012 Download PDF

In the period 1992-2004 young people not in full-time education had an employment rate similar to those aged 25 to 64, but since then it has declined faster, a new report from the Office for National Statistics has found.

In January-March 2004, there was a gap of just 0.2 percentage points between the employment rate of 25 to 64-year-olds (75.5 per cent) and that of 16 to 24-year-olds not in full-time education (75.3 per cent). By October-December 2011, the rate for the older age group was little different, at 74.9 per cent, but the rate for the younger group had declined to 66.0 per cent, meaning the gap had widened to 8.9 percentage points. Over the same period, the employment rate for those 16 to 24-year-olds still in full-time education declined from 38.7 per cent to 27.2 per cent. Overall, in October-December 2011, 3.6 million people aged 16 to 24 were employed, or one in every two young people.

The type of work done by young people differs depending on whether they are studying or not. In October-December 2011, those who were still in full-time education were twice as likely to work in elementary occupations such as waiting, bar work or cleaning – 38 per cent of all in employment compared with 19 per cent of those who had left full-time education. Another 38 per cent of full-time students worked in sales and customer service occupations, compared with 18 per cent of those who had left full-time study. Those were not studying had significant numbers in personal service occupations (14 per cent), skilled trades (14 per cent) and administrative and technical occupations (12 per cent).

Of those in full-time education, women were more likely to work than their male counterparts (31 per cent compared with 23 per cent). However, the opposite was true for those not in full-time education, where 68 per cent of young men were working, compared with 64 per cent of young women, some of whom had already left the labour market to start a family.

In April 2011 hourly median pay excluding overtime for young people was £7.01 an hour, 42 per cent lower than for the rest of the workforce, for whom pay averaged £12.00 an hour. Young people earn less across all occupation groups, with the greatest difference being for managers and senior officials and the lowest for sales and customer service occupations, where the gap was only 11 per cent.

A podcast giving more background on this analysis in available on the ONS Youtube channel at

Background notes

  1. There is a report on the ONS website at
  2. It is possible for people to combine full-time education with employment, for example part-time work.
  3. Follow us on and on the ONS Youtube channel at
  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.
  5. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2012.


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