Lucy Ward, EducationGuardian.co.uk, Nov. 29, 2006
The proportion of Bangladeshi and Pakistani 18-year-olds in England and Wales who are not in work, education or training has more than doubled in two years, according to new figures showing the overall share of young people slipping through the employment and study net has also risen.
Government statistics published yesterday show that 17% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi youths are neither working nor studying, compared with 7% in 2004.
The study, part of research tracking the progress of successive waves of 18-year-olds, reveals that the overall proportion not in work, education or training has risen from 12% in 2004 to 13% in 2006 — more than 40,000 of the age group.
The overall rise is troubling for the government, which regards Britain’s high number of so-called NEETS — young people not in education, employment or training — as a fundamental problem with massive financial and social implications. It has promised to cut the number of 16 to18-year-olds in this category by 20% by 2010, and the education secretary, Alan Johnson, has raised the possibility of increasing the school leaving age to 18.
But the details of the dramatic rise in jobless British Asian young people highlight the particular challenge faced by ministers in improving opportunities for those groups as part of wider efforts to engage Muslim youth and boost community cohesion. The government is anxious to ensure young Muslim men have the chance of work and train to avoid the risk of drifting into disillusion and possible recruitment by terrorist groups.
The Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Sarah Teather, said last night: “This highlights a serious need for the government to engage with the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities about fostering aspiration among their young people.
“If this trend is not reversed it signals less community cohesion in the future, not more.”
The figures suggest that government claims last week that it may be beginning to crack the problem of academic achievement among ethnic minority pupils in England with improved GCSE results for these groups show only part of the picture.
The youth cohort study, published on the Department for Education and Skills website, shows that, while one in eight 18-year-olds is out of work, education or training, some young people are far more likely to fall into the category than others.
They include those in particular ethnic groups, including Pakistani, Bangladeshi and those of mixed heritage, as well as those with parents in manual jobs and those who achieved no or few GCSEs.
However, the picture is not straightforward: overall, young people from minority ethnic groups were more likely to be in full-time education than their white counterparts, largely because of the very high proportion of Indians still studying at 18.
Ms Teather called for more proactive moves to reach those falling through the net, and warned that those failing to hit government targets at 15 risked being “condemned to life in a permanent underclass”.
She said: “Early signs like truanting and underachievement have to be acted on immediately so that every young person is encouraged to fulfil their potential.”
Alan Johnson yesterday acknowledged the proportion of NEETS remained persistent.
He pointed to two pilot schemes covering 14 local authorities aimed at identifying young people at risk of dropping out at an early stage in order to boost prevention and offer rapid support.
(Posted on December 1, 2006)
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