I am working out of our Singapore office at the moment and it got me thinking …. What does the youth unemployment landscape look like here? Of course I felt it must be significantly lower than the UK and our European neighbours – but was not prepared to hear that, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, it was a low as 5.9% and has been for a consistent number of years. This is less than half the global unemployment rate.
It makes me question why there are over 1 million unemployed young people in the UK, with 1 in 5 5th generation unemployed - meaning their parents, their grandparents, great-grandparents and great, great-grandparents were without a job. We cannot blame the current economic climate on this statistic.
When looking at Europe it comes as little surprise that Greece and Spain are topping the youth unemployment charts with 51% each. However, our 22% youth unemployment figure is still unacceptably high, more than two-and-a-half times higher than for the workforce as a whole. The statistics published by the OECD show that only a few countries, including Germany, recorded decreases since 2007.
So why is Singapore’s unemployment rate so low? I discovered that there are a number of national programs and schemes that have helped keep youth unemployment levels low. The government proactively supports initiatives to provide labour market information to help youths get a head start in their work lives. Additionally, with SMEs hiring more than 60% of the country’s workforce here, the government is running a place-and-train programme to help SMEs recruit and retain youth. There are also entrepreneurial start up schemes for young people and overall a very supportive business ecosystem to facilitate all entrepreneurs to set up business – who in turn create job opportunities for young people.
However, if I were to outline all of the UK’s government initiatives for tackling youth unemployment I am sure they would more than stack up. The key factor for me was still uncovered ….
Diving a little deeper, I spoke with a number of Singaporeans from top executives to our hotel staff. The first response is generally that it is culturally unacceptable to be out of work here – society just does not tolerate it. A taxi driver told me that Singapore does not easily accept failure – and there is no room for being dependent on the state. For me, this seems to be the real differentiator.
The question of how we translate this to the UK is too complex an issue for this short blog, however, it did get me thinking – the majority of young people I meet through our support of The Prince’s Trust and Business in the Community in the UK want to work, need to have a reason to get up in the morning and want a future - a normal future. The Prince’s Trust is a charity that specialises in helping young disadvantaged people into employment and has, over the last 35 years, helped over 55,000 young people into employment and continues to help 100 people every day. We are proud to be partons of The Trust and last year celebrated raising £1 million to support their work.
The Trust is a charity that I am very passionate about as I have seen first hand how difficult it can be for young people to get their foot on the employment ladder and how much confidence, or lack of it, can play a part at this formative time of ‘working’ life. We have our own inspiring story at Capgemini – Derek Hogg, one of our SAP consultants
“I left school not having done very well and suffering from ill health. I’d just managed to scrape my way onto an accounting diploma at college when my lung collapsed, twice. So I dropped out of college to take a long and easy recovery. But this left me unemployed and without much of a clue what life after school was meant to mean”
Derek was then introduced to The Trust and gained a place on a youth training programme based in Dundee to support Derek trying to figure out his future.
“It was an amazing experience and I remember finishing my 12 weeks with a new determination – literally a changed person” Derek applied for College again and 2 years later followed with university. He gained employment with EDS in London and eventually came to work with Capgemini and to Worthing where he now lives with his wife and daughter.
“I’m positive that without The Prince’s Trust and my time on the Team Programme I would not have achieved all that I have in my life."
There is much more to be done and for our young people, my message is don’t give up – some of the most successful people in business I know fell on hard times or started from a standing start. For business, my message is that there is much more that we can do if we think creatively, recognise this resource pool full of untapped potential and create opportunities ….
Together, building a stronger UK plc.