Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact Contents

4Young people

66.In this Chapter, we consider the challenges faced by younger people pre-pandemic in the wake of the 2008 recession, and evaluate the success of apprenticeship and training schemes designed to assist this group. We have examined the economic impact on young men and women during the pandemic and consider Government schemes.

Pre-Pandemic trends

67.Prior to the pandemic, the picture for young people was one of rising economic activity and employment following the damaging impacts of the 2008 recession.99 Youth unemployment declined from 2013 -2019, reaching 10.1% and 13.5% for women and men aged 16–24 in July-September 2019 respectively.100 However, pay progression was weak,101 and young people were disproportionately likely to work for low pay.102 The Resolution Foundation argued the best ever educated generation could not translate education to earnings as many entry level jobs available offered little training or job progression.103 Young people, those in full time education, BAME people104 and women were disproportionately likely to work on zero-hour contracts,105 and agency work increased by 30% for young people under 30 from 2011.106

68.The Government’s flagship Apprenticeship training programme was designed to encourage employment and progression via a mix of work-based and formal learning.107 However, enrolment in the programme was below target and the introduction of new payment arrangements (‘the levy’) in 2017/18 caused a 26% fall in starts.108 Further, occupational gender stereotyping within the apprenticeship scheme had not been addressed. In 2018, women made up only 8% of STEM apprenticeships starts but 80% of starts in public services and care.109 The National Audit Office [NAO] found that women typically earned lower salaries than men after completing apprenticeships at every level, and that this gap grows each year after completion.110 TUC research also showed that young women were less likely to find a permanent position on finishing their course and reports an 18.4% gender pay gap amongst apprentices, linked to the gendering of occupations.111

69.The NAO criticised the Government for not having a gender equality plan, with the need to monitor the progress of women and girls in STEM apprenticeships.112 The Young Women’s Trust concluded that there needed to be greater use of positive action measures by employers to recruit women into STEM apprenticeships.

Impact of the Pandemic

70.Young people have been hit especially hard by the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.113 The fall in employment has been greatest amongst those aged 16–24 years old, reaching a record low in August-October 2020.114 IFS research found that young workers were two and a half times as likely to work in a shut-down sector: shut down sectors employed nearly a third (30%) of all employees under the age of 25 (25% of young men and 36% of young women). Given this, the IFS warned that the pandemic will make it much harder for young people to attain in-work progression.115 The number of young people claiming unemployment related benefits increased by 122% between March and July.116

71.Understanding gender differences in the economic impact of the pandemic amongst young people has been complicated by data issues: statistics are rarely disaggregated by age and gender. In written evidence, the Young Women’s Trust (YWT) criticised the lack of official analysis or data of the gendered impact of the pandemic.117 From their own research and experience, the YWT identified a number of concerns for young women that demonstrate the specific impacts of the pandemic on them, including struggling financially before and during the crisis; taking on additional debt; being more likely to be on zero-hour contracts and in insecure work; inconsistent implementation by employers of the furlough scheme; the unaffordability of childcare, and closure of childcare provision.118 They called for the immediate release of gender disaggregated redundancy data to assess the impact of these inequalities.119

Government action during the pandemic

72.In his Summer Economic Update, the Chancellor announced a number of measures specifically aimed at young people, who he acknowledged were “amongst the worst hit by the crisis”. This included £1.6 billion to be invested in scaling up apprenticeships, traineeships and employment support schemes; additional job finding support; and the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme, which aims to create new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. Those aged 16–24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, would be eligible.

Apprenticeships and Kickstart

73.By November 2020, over 19,000 job placements had been created via KICKSTART.120 No equality disaggregated breakdown of these placements was available. The Chief Executive of the Young Women’s Trust, Sophie Walker expressed concern about the future prospects of young women entering or attempting to enter Kickstart, “unless these jobs lead to permanent employment, they will do little to raise young women’s prospects or lift them out of poverty.”121

74.The WBG recommended that KICKSTART guaranteed an equal number of work placements for young women and young men, made efforts to ensure women don’t miss out on well-paid work placements and monitored and published data disaggregated by protected characteristics.122 Dr Duncan Brown argued that, without a proactive approach, Kickstart could reinforce occupational segregation amongst young men and women.

75.Mims Davies MP told us that that “Kickstart was absolutely the right opportunity for our young people, because of covid-19 and managing that potential scarring effect on our young people[…]:

It is key that we work with our employers, our work coaches, our gateways, to make sure that our young people have a really good experience, which could lead to a traineeship, an apprenticeship and a longer-term role with that company.123

76.Witnesses to our inquiry stressed the need to develop high quality, reputable training programmes that genuinely improved job prospects and developed skills employers valued.124

77.Prior to the pandemic, young people faced a number of challenges including relatively high unemployment, an overrepresentation in forms of insecure work, and long-term issues of low pay and slow career progression. The Government’s flagship apprenticeship programme, intended to boost both employment and progression, suffered from a number of gender inequality issues (including pay and occupational segregation) that remained unresolved. The pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated the economic vulnerability of young people, given their over concentration in shut down sectors, and in insecure work.

78.We recommend that the Government mainstream equality into the design of apprenticeships and worked-based learning and actively challenge occupational segregation by gender. It must publish a gender equality plan for its apprenticeship programme and an action plan to increase the number of women in STEM apprenticeships.

79.We recommend that the Government establish quotas for women in its Kickstart scheme.

80.We recommend that DWP introduce training for Jobcentre Plus work coaches on supporting applicants into gender ‘atypical’ jobs.

99 UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Opportunities and outcomes in education and work: Gender effects, November 2015. The most detrimental “scarring” impacts of the 2008 recession were experienced by white British men, and Pakistani and Caribbean women. See O’Reilly, J., and Zuccotti, C. (2018) “Do scarring effects vary by gender and ethnicity”, in “Youth labour in transition: inequalities, mobility , policy and in Europe”, O’Reilly, J., Leschke, J., Ortlieb, R., Seelieb-Kaiser, M. and Villa, P. (eds.), University Press Scholarship Online, January 2019

100 Youth Unemployment Statistics, Briefing Paper 5871, House of Commons Library, November 2020

101 IFS, ‘What has been happening to career progression?’, 31 July 2020, accessed 15 January 2021

102 ONS, ‘Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)’, accessed 15 January 2021. Data relates to April 2020, when the Real Living Wage rates were £9.50 across the UK and £10.85 in London. Since 2016 the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage have been amalgamated. This is currently £8.20 per for 21–24 years, £6.45 for 18–21 yrs and £4.55 under 18. See Gov.uk, ‘National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates’, accessed 15 January 2021

105 ONS, ‘Contracts that do not offer a minimum number of hours’, accessed 15 January 2021

106 Resolution Foundation, A New Generational Contract: The final report of the Intergenerational Commission, May 2018; see also, Davies, R. and Parken, A., “Devolution, recession and the alleviation of inequality in Wales”, in Fee, D. and and Kober-Smith, A. (ed), “Inequalities in the UK since the 2008 recession: New discourses, evolutions, and actions”, November 2017

107 There are 4 main types of apprenticeship, Intermediate (Level 2), Advanced (Level 3), Higher (Foundation Degree and above), and Degree (Bachelors or Masters). The number of women starting apprenticeships has been growing, particularly at the lower levels, since the range of study was expanded into traditionally female occupations (i.e., retail).

108 National Audit Office, The Apprenticeships Programme, HC 1987 Session 2017–19, March 2019

109 Ibid.

110 Ibid.

112 National Audit Office, The Apprenticeships Programme, HC 1987 Session 2017–19, March 2019, p 24

113 See, for example, Centre for Economic Performance, Generation COVID: Emerging work and education inequalities, October 2020

114 ONS, Employment in the UK: December 2020, accessed 15 January 2021

116 Coronavirus: Impact on the Labour Market, Briefing Paper 8898, House of Commons Library, November 2020

117 Young Women’s Trust (MRS0242)

118 Young Women’s Trust, Picking up the Pieces: Young Women’s Experiences of 2020, November 2020

119 Young Women’s Trust, ‘Why we’re worried about young women’s jobs’, September 2020 (accessed 15 January 2021)

120More than 19,000 jobs created by Kickstart Scheme so far”, HM Treasury press release, 12 November 2020 (accessed 15 January 2021)

121 Young Women’s Trust, ‘Chancellor’s statement: we need to avoid repeating mistakes of the past’, 8 July 2020 (accessed 15 January 2021)

122 Women’s Budget Group, Covid-19 and economic challenges for young women, November 2020, p 7

124 Q125 [Dr Monica Costa Dias; Dr Brown]




Published: 9 February 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement