Young people in poorest areas of Wales still left behind after two decades of devolution

‘Youth Opportunity Index’ shows stark divides in education and employment outcomes for young people across Wales

The education and employment opportunities young people in Wales can expect are still being dictated by where they live – rather than by their ability – according to new data released by Learning and Work Institute Cymru today. The Youth Opportunity Index, the first of its kind in the country, showed that young people growing up in the most deprived areas like Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, have the least access to opportunities, leaving them facing a double-disadvantage.

The Index ranks each local authority in Wales by levels of educational achievement and employment outcomes for young people. It includes a number of measures, ranging from GCSE performance and participation in Higher Education and Apprenticeships, to the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). The index ranks local authorities on each measure and brings these together into a single measure of education and employment opportunities.

Analysis shows there is a significant concentration of disadvantage in the South East Wales Valleys, with Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent the four lowest scoring local authorities.

To highlight the different successful interventions, the Learning and Work Institute in Wales released a video about the achievements of the charity Groundwork, which provides education and training opportunities for young people in deprived areas. You can view the video here.

The Wales director for the Learning and Work Institute, David Hagendyk said:

“Two decades on from devolution, the Youth Opportunity Index shows that opportunities for our young people in education and employment are dictated not by their ability and how hard they work, but where they grow up. We are seeing the long shadow of industrial decline, with young people growing up in these ‘left-behind’ communities still suffering from poorer opportunities.

“Progress has been made across a range of policy areas, including a fall in the number of young people not in work, education or training and a significant expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, but what is needed now is a clear focus on those communities where young people have the fewest opportunities.

“A central focus for the Welsh Government over the next two decades must be eliminating these stark divides that scar our country and hold our young people back. Today we are calling on all political parties to respond to this challenge and, as we build up to the 2021 Elections, set out their plans to end this inequality, including vocational routes for young people, a focus on earlier intervention, and focusing resources on the areas of greatest need.”