The Chief Executive of a leading youth employability charity has backed calls for more to be done to address the lack of numeracy and literacy skills amongst young unemployed people.

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that the literacy gap between young people who are jobless and out of education, and their working peers, is bigger in the UK than in many other developed nations.

It puts the UK in last place out of 22 countries in terms of the literacy gap, and last out of 19 in terms of the gap in problem-solving abilities.

The OECD's research concludes that young people in the UK can face difficulties moving from school into work, and those that have low abilities in areas such as literacy and a low level of education face more problems.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “Addressing this issue is not only a moral imperative, but also an economic necessity. Too many young people leave education without having acquired the right skills and, even those who do, are prevented from putting them to productive use. These young people often face a difficult future and need all our support. “


Street League is the national charity which uses a unique football and employability ‘Academy’ programme to help unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds get into work and training. On the Academy, participants acquire key qualifications in employability, numeracy and literacy, and undergo work placements in order to prepare them for the world of work.

Chief Executive Matt Stevenson-Dodd said: “We welcome this report which highlights the lack of key skills among young people not in employment, education or training.

“At Street League, we recognise the importance of these basic skills in making young people more employable and more attractive to potential employers. Using football as the hook, we help them build their CVs and prepare them for the world of work through mock interviews and work placements with the employers who support us.”

The OECD's research uses data from the organisation's 2012 Survey of Adult Skills to look at young people's basic skills levels and their chances in the job market.

Overall, there was a 12.6% gap in literacy, the study shows, double the OECD average of 6.5%. In comparison, in Japan, the difference was 0.3%, in Korea it was 0.4% and in Norway, which had the next biggest gap after the UK, it was 11.2%, followed by the Slovak Republic where it was 10.5%.


There was also a 9.6% difference between the problem-solving skills of unemployed young people, and their employed peers.

The report states: “Many of the NEETs are far from the labour market not only due to their low skills but also because they are not looking for a job and thus may have fallen under the radar of education and labour market institutions.”

Ensuring that all young people leave education with decent skills is a priority, it adds.

“Policies should focus on helping the NEETs, including those that have become disengaged, to renew with education or integrate into the labour market.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady told The Press Association: “This report from OECD is an important reminder that skills and training for young people will be vital to productivity growth.”