Children from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be out of work because of a “youth jobs gap” between rich and poor, a study suggests.
Research by charity Impetus indicated that one in four young people who were eligible for free school meals, were not in education, employment or training (Neet) after leaving school.
Only 13% of those not having free school meals ended up Neet, said the report.
Education alone cannot explain the employment gap, as youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds still fare worse even when they achieve good qualifications, said the charity.
Young people with similar qualifications to their better-off peers are still 50% more likely to be out of education and employment in early adulthood, the study indicated.
Regional differences were also reported, with a disadvantaged young person in the North East being 50% more likely to end up Neet than a disadvantaged young person in London.
Impetus chief executive Andy Ratcliffe said: “We’ve all heard the good news about record levels of youth employment. Our data lets us look beneath the headline figures at what is happening to young people from different backgrounds, in different parts of the country, and with different qualifications, and, for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, this is not a good news story.
“We are breaking a fundamental promise to young people in this country. We tell them: ‘Study hard, get your qualifications and good jobs will follow’.
“For many young people this is true, but for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds it isn’t. They are less likely to get those qualifications, and even when they do, less likely to benefit.”
Stefan Speckesser, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which helped with the study, said: “By showing regional and local differences in the employment gap, we find evidence that some local areas are more successfully tackling the negative effects of disadvantage, which are unrelated to education success, on young people’s school-to-work transitions.”
The findings, involving 18 to 24-year-old Neets in England, are drawn from Education Department data.
Shadow employment minister Mike Amesbury said: “This report must act as a wake-up call to the Government. Young people who have grown up in poverty can face significant disadvantages when they come to look for their first job.
“The Tory Party is failing young people, who are too often trapped in low-paid and insecure work, but the Government is refusing to track whether or not its flagship youth employment programme, the Youth Obligation, is working.”
Mark Hawthorne, of the Local Government Association, said: “The Government needs to consider LGA proposals for an integrated employment and skills service led by local authorities.
“Devolving careers advice, post-16 and adult skills budgets and powers to local areas would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision for young people so that they can get on in life.”
A Government spokesman said: “Tackling disadvantage will always be a priority for this government and since 2010, the youth unemployment level has almost halved.
“Young people are participating in education and training at their highest rate since consistent records began and the latest figures show that the overall proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training was at 6.3%, the lowest rate on record.
“We are working closely with schools to assist 12 to 16-year-olds who have been identified as most likely to be at risk of becoming Neet.
“Jobcentres also help school pupils with career planning and link them up with local businesses for work experience placements.
“We also provide support for young people after they leave school to equip them with the skills and experience they need to progress.”