Long-term economic and health consequences of worklessness in young people in England and Wales

Xun, W. (2020) Doctoral thesis UCL (University College London), [ONS LS]

Other information:

Following the Great Recession of 2008/09, the number of unemployed young people in the UK had reached one million, equivalent to 22% of 16-24-year olds. A further sizable proportion (36%) were economically inactive (including students). There is also substantial evidence that unemployment and economic inactivity (often referred to as Not in Education, Employment or Training or youth worklessness) at early stages during a person’s working life can lead to negative socioeconomic and health consequences, both in the short- and long-term. Hence, there are serious concerns over the current and future cohorts of young people entering post-recession labour markets. The central question this PhD thesis aims to address is whether worklessness experienced at the beginning of an individual’s working life is associated with negative socioeconomic outcomes and increased risk of mortality in later life. Methods: This thesis comprises of three related analytical studies, all using a database nationally representative of the England and Wales (E&W) census from 1971 to 2011 - the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS LS). Study 1 uses multilevel logistic regression to explore cross-sectional characteristics related to youth worklessness using three cohorts of young people aged 16-24, selected at 1971, 1991 and 2011. Study 2 identifies and describes occupational disadvantage of youth worklessness in terms of further worklessness over the life course, using a cohort selected from 1971 at baseline; and finally, Study 3 extends the longitudinal exploration to examine the direct relationship between worklessness at age 16 to 24 and mortality events after age 46 and possible mediation by subsequent worklessness, health status, and social class, using path analysis in the same baseline cohort as Study 2. Results: Study 1 shows youth worklessness is independently associated with a large number of - mostly structural - cross-sectional factors and thus indicating the complex circumstances and multiple dimensions of disadvantage that workless young experience. Study 2 indicated that youth worklessness is related to economic disadvantage in terms of further worklessness over the life course. The most important results to emerge from the path analysis of Study 3 suggest that worklessness experienced at age 16-24 is directly related to increased mortality risk from age 46 onwards in men; further indirect associations were also found in both genders via subsequent worklessness (at age 46-54), health status and life-time social class attainment. Conclusions: This thesis provides evidence that young people who had experienced worklessness are more likely to also experience occupational and health inequalities subsequently in the life course. It also suggests that interventions to narrow health and socioeconomic inequalities at any stage during the life course might reduce worklessness and, in turn, premature mortality.

Available online: Doctoral thesis
Output from project: 0301616


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