A few weeks ago I attended an event run by The Work Foundation on youth unemployment and lessons the UK can learn from other countries on how to tackle it. The event was used to launch a report which – among other things – shows that the UK has experienced the fastest rise in youth unemployment of any country in the G8 since the start of the recession and now has the third worst levels in the OECD – only Spain and Greece had worse levels of youth unemployment.
The particularly interesting thing about the event though was the speech given by Angela Constance MSP, the Minister for Youth Employment in the Scottish Executive. Not only was the fact that Scotland have a Minister for Youth Employment interesting, but her talk also revealed a number of additional interesting facts about how seriously Scotland takes youth unemployment:
- Angela Constance suggested that the idea of having a Minister for Youth Employment worked well in Scotland as it ensured there was an unrelenting focus on the issue.
- Young people are – she suggested – actively involved in discussions on youth unemployment in the Scottish Government.
- She reports directly to not one, but two Cabinet Secretaries (the equivalent of Secretaries of State at UK Government level), ensuring a cross-government approach to tackling youth unemployment.
- She attends Cabinet – a privilege not even granted to the UK Government’s Minister of State for Employment, Mark Hoban MP – see here for the list of UK Government Cabinet Ministers and those who are allowed to attend Cabinet.
- Not only that, but there is also a “standing item” on the Cabinet agenda on youth unemployment which means the issue is discussed at every Scottish Executive Cabinet meeting – we are not aware of any similar procedure in UK Cabinet meetings.
- Most importantly, it seems to be making a difference. At the event, Angela Constance stated that while youth unemployment has doubled at UK level in the last few years, the Scottish youth unemployment rate is falling and was – at the time of her speech – at 19.9%. This was the lowest rate in 18 months.
It might be that the UK Government could learn a few lessons from Scotland in this regard!