Young adults ‘locked out’ of opportunities to secure their futures

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that there are almost half a million more young people in poverty than a decade ago


There are now 1.7 million people aged 16-24 in poverty, 400,000 more than a decade ago. That’s the finding of the annual report by the New Policy Institute (NPI) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), which monitors the changing pattern of poverty and social exclusion in the UK.

More young adults are now in poverty than over-65s, the only age group to see a fall in the number of people in poverty over the last ten years.

Young people are also four times more likely to be unemployed; the research shows that 16 per cent of under-25s are unemployed, compared to 4 per cent of the working age population as whole.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the JRF, said:

“The next generation is being condemned to a worse set of circumstances in which to live, work and raise a family. This year’s report reveals that a large proportion of young people are being locked out of the opportunities they need to build a secure future – a secure home, a job that pays the bills and the chance to get on in life.

Last week, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that young people are on course to be less well-off than the previous generation at every stage of their lives. 

The lack of decent jobs and affordable homes are two of the biggest factors in the depressing outlook for young people. The JRF says that ‘finding a job is not a reliable route out of poverty’, as 51 per cent of those below the poverty line live in a household with at least one adult in work.

Although overall labour market performance has been good, the number of part-time workers wanting a full-time job is still higher than in 2009, and 600,000 people on temporary contracts want permanent ones, compared with 400,000 before the recession.

‘Generation rent’ is also, unsurprisingly, suffering the most from soaring house prices. Much of the rise in homelessness recorded in this report (13,000 more households than five years ago) is due to a private rental tenancy coming to an end. Almost half of 25-34 year-olds currently rent their home.

Average rents across England have escalated by 10.5 per cent over the past year, much faster than the rise in earnings. Last week Tom Copley, Labour’s London Assembly Spokesperson, warned that based on current trends the average rent for a two-bed home in London would hit £2,007 a month by January 2020.

Based on homelessness charity Shelter’s rule that people should not spend more than a third of their income on rent, that would mean a single earner household would need to earn almost £120,000 a year for their rent to be affordable by 2020.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.