More teenagers in the UK are out of work and without a college place than in most other developed nations, according to international data published today.
Figures show that school-leavers are more likely to be classed as “Neet” – not in education, employment or training – than in countries such as Estonia, Portugal, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.
It emerged that the UK was ranked ninth out of 32 nations judged by the number of 15- to 19-year-olds with effectively nothing to do.
The data – from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – will fuel fears that a generation of young people have been failed despite billions of pounds invested in education under Labour.
Figures show almost one-in-10 school-leavers were without a job or college place in 2009 – the latest comparable data – above the international average. Only Spain, Italy and Ireland had higher rates among EU nations.
Separate figures also showed that the UK was ranked 26th for the number of teenagers opting to remain in education up to the age of 19.
Student leaders seized on the disclosure, claiming that Government cuts to college budgets and a sharp rise in university tuition fees would make the situation even worse.
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “The Government claims that education is a priority but their policies risk worsening an already poor history of participation and investment by failing to provide students with adequate support.
“Even before the Government decided to treble tuition fees and slash funding, UK participation and investment in higher and further education was already languishing near the bottom of the table and they have now put us at risk of dropping even further still.”
The OECD’s report – Education at a Glance – compares developed nations across the world against a series of key indicators including employment rates, average wages, spending on education and school class sizes.
Latest figures show that 9.6 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland finished compulsory education in 2009 without a job or further education place.
Turkey was the worst nation for youth unemployment, with 28.7 per cent of young people classed as Neets, followed by Israel and Mexico.
But the UK was above the OECD average of 8.6 and had more Neets than economic competitors such as France and Germany. It also performed worse than Estonia, Greece, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Luxembourg, where just 1.7 per cent of young people were Neet.
According to latest official Government data, some 186,000 teenagers were out of work in England in the second quarter of 2011, although it was way down on the 234,000 in this position at the same time in 2009.
Separate OECD figures show that, among this age group, 74 per cent were in education alone.
This placed the UK 26th out of 30 and behind nations such as Slovenia, Korea and the Slovak Republic.
Only Chile, Israel, Mexico and Turkey have a lower proportion of 15 to 19-year-olds in education, the figures show.