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The latest Office for National Statisics (ONS) mid-year population estimates indicated that in 2017 there were 3.7 million 15- to 19-year-olds in the UK and 4.2 million 20- to 24-year-olds. Young people aged 15 to 24 made up 12 percent of the total UK population. The proportion of people in England and Wales in this age range was also 12 percent. This briefing highlights some of the problems identified as affecting young people in the UK today. In so doing it provides statistical information on young people and sets out relevant government policy. It concludes with suggestions for further reading.

Jobs and Unemployment

The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was 11.1% in July to September 2018 compared to 3.8 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and 2.8 percent of 35- to 49-year-olds. However, rates of youth unemployment are currently comparatively low. In July to September 2018, 476,000 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK were unemployed. This figure had fallen by 41,000 on the previous year and was close to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1992.

Young people were also more likely to have unpredictable work patterns than their older peers, with 17% of people aged 18 to 25 having their working hours changed at short notice, compared to 5% of workers aged 36 to 65.

Poverty and Homelessness

In 2015, the New Policy Institute found that 30% of people aged 14 to 24 were living in poverty, meaning their income after tax and housing costs was less than 60% of the median household income. This was the highest proportion for any age group, the institute argued.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions indicated households with children where the head of the family was aged between 16 to 24 were more likely to be living in poverty, with 54% earning below the threshold of 60% of median income, after housing costs. This compared to 21% of households of all ages with children earning below this threshold.

Home Ownership

In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers argued the so-called ‘generation rent’, which included people in the age range 20 to 39, would have to save for 19 years in order to buy their own home.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders reported that the English Housing Survey for 2015-16 showed that the proportion of first time buyers aged 16 to 24 had fallen from 21.3% in 1995/96 to 7.5% in 2015/16.

Physical Health

Those aged 16 to 24 in England are the least likely age group to suffer from obesity and the most likely to meet the NHS guidelines for physical activity. According to the 2016 Health Survey for England, 11% of 16- to 24-year-olds are obese. However, there has been an overall increase in the prevalence of obesity over the last decade. The overall prevalence of obesity amongst all age groups has increased to 27% in 2015, up from 15% in 1993. In 2015–16, there were 372 finished admission episodes for 16- to 24-year-olds where the primary diagnosis was obesity, compared to 184 in 2006–07.

Mental Health

Young people in the UK are more likely to report mental health problems than other age groups: 70% of people in the UK aged 18 to 34 self-reported experience of such problems, compared to 68% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 58% of people aged over 55.

A young person’s experiencing of mental health problems is also likely to have an impact on the rest of their lives. NHS England state that half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and that 75% are established by the age of 24.

Crime and Prisons

Young people are more likely to be a victim of crime. According to the Office for National Statistics, in the year ending March 2018, 20.2% of people aged 16 to 24 in England and Wales had been a victim of crime. This compared to 14.4% for the adult population as a whole. Young men were more likely to be victims of crime: 22.4% of men aged 16 to 24, compared to 17.9% of women aged 16 to 24.

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