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Rise in young people in low-paid jobs

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The proportion of young people in low-paid, low-skilled jobs has risen sharply over the past 20 years ago, according to a new study.

The Work Foundation report, Gender Jobs Split, showed that between 1993 and 2011 the proportion of 16-24 year-old women in low-paid work, such as office and hotel cleaning, has increased from 7% to 21%. Over the same period, the proportion of young men in low-paid jobs increased from 14% to 25%.

The study, commissioned by the TUC, found more young people "trapped" in low-paid work at a time when youth unemployment is at "crisis levels."

It blames the huge rise in low-skilled work on the collapse of middle-income jobs, such as administrative, plant and manufacturing roles. 

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the youth labour market has become a "harsher place" for young people over the past two decades.

"While there has been a welcome rise in the number of females gaining qualifications, many still find themselves trapped in low-skilled, low-wage jobs. This is because there are fewer good jobs out there and because young women are still being channelled down 'traditional' routes," O'Grady said.

"Unless we create better training and employment opportunities for young people, as well as challenging gender roles from the outset, the situation will not improve. We need to invest in new industries to create decent jobs and provide better early years careers support."

Gender divide

Despite being better qualified than men, women are receiving a lower wage premium for vocational qualifications, and are more likely to enter low-paid roles. The study found young women dominate customer service, retail, health and social care, which offer fewer progression opportunities and lower pay.

The research also showed that gender plays a huge part in career choice, with only 1% of women working in skilled trades compared with a fifth of young men.

The study calls for employers to offer more training and hiring opportunities for young men and women. It said policies addressing gender segregation should be targeted at the bottom end of the labour market.

It also calls for the creation of specialist youth and employment services that will provide advice and support to young people in their first few years of employment.