Why Are Young People Turning Away From the Workforce?

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friends shoppingNew figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that less than 78% of people within the 20 to 34 age bracket are either employed or looking for work. Compared to the year 2000 when the figure was 83%, this represents a 5% backslide and is the lowest figure since the 1970s.

Why are young people being kept away from work?

There are a number of reasons for this.  The weak economy is a large contributory factor which impacts young people’s working prospects in a number of ways. Those include:

  • The “last in first out” policy: Many companies and organizations enforce policies to reduce headcount starting with the most junior employees, which are oftentimes the youngest.
  • Hiring freezes: When firms decide to freeze hiring in order to cut back on expenditure, this affects recent graduates who are not taken on after college.

Other social, lifestyle and workplace changes keeping young people out of work include:

  • Changes in married women’s choices: More married women between the ages of 25 and 34 have been leaving the labor market and decide to remain at home, perhaps to become the primary caregiver to children. According to the BLS, married women in this age group have been leaving the workforce at a higher rate than all young people overall, supporting this hypothesis. The reasons for this trend are being attributed to wage freezes in the workforce since the recession and the rising cost of child care.
  • Increased life expectancy: Because people are living longer overall, milestones are being delayed. People therefore graduate from college later, get married later and buy houses and have children later to.
  • Fewer opportunities: Life expectancy increasing is affecting the workforce at both ends of the spectrum. As baby boomers delay retirement through fear of not having enough saved away to support themselves for 30 years, there are fewer entry-level or managerial training opportunities available for young people.  According to the BLS, since 2000 the percentage of over 55 year olds in the workforce has increased from 30% to more than 40% in 2013.

The impact of further education

Economists are in agreement that besides the struggling economy, young people’s tendency to study for longer in 2013 is the most significant reason for the lower number of young people in the job market. The BLS figures show that the number of young people in college in 2013 is 25% higher than in 2000. In addition to this, it now takes young students longer to finish their studies. This is therefore delaying their entry into the workforce.

Why are young people studying for longer?

Let’s look at some of the reasons why young people are spending longer in colleges and school studying.

  • Young people are getting more advanced degrees: Perspectives on education and the value of degrees has shifted since 2000. Bachelor’s degrees, the first level of college qualification, are no longer considered to be enough to make young people competitive in the middle-class workforce, says the Chief Economist at Rutgers University Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Young people are seeking out Masters’ degrees and beyond, which takes longer and keeps them out of work for more years.
  • College costs more: College is a huge financial burden on young people, which is leading to them taking longer to finish their studies, according to the Chief Economist at Rutgers University Heldrich Center for Workforce. By taking less classes in a semester in order to have more time to work a part-time job to support their studies or dropping out in order to temporarily work to earn enough money to return, young people are delaying their graduation date more and more.

Are you a young person who is out of work? Are you studying, looking after children at home or struggling to find your way within the workforce? We want to know your experiences – share them with us by leaving a comment!

One thought on “Why Are Young People Turning Away From the Workforce?

  1. Frank Duffy

    College is SO expensive but so necessary in order to be a competitive player in today’s workforce. We give young people a mixed message when we tell them how important it is to study yet saddle them with student loan debt that takes 25 years to repay….

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