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16-24 year olds

Key points

  • Nearly 11% of 16-24 year olds in London were unemployed in 2014, more than twice the level for 25-64 year olds.
  • 77% of 16-20 year olds and 41% of 21-24 year olds are low paid.
  • Young adults are about twice as likely to receive a benefit sanction as other age groups
  • The proportion of 19 year olds with qualifications has improved significantly in Inner London, overtaking the English average.


Young adults (16-24 year olds) in London are better educated on leaving school than ever before. Nevertheless, they are more likely to be unemployed - and even when in work, young adults are very likely to be low paid. Yet the new National Living Wage only applies to over 25s and young adults now have more restricted access to housing benefit. Across the UK, young adult poverty has risen by more than any other age group in the last decade.


Over the last 20 years, young adult unemployment has been consistently higher than for other working-age adults. It started to rise in the mid-2000s, long before the recession, reaching 14% of London 16-24 year olds.

The unemployment rate for London young adults has since improved but was still 10.7% in 2014, which is 2.5 times higher than for adults aged 25-64.

Before the recession, London young adults were more likely to be unemployed than those in the rest of England, but this gap closed when unemployment rose for everyone in 2009.

Find out more about young adults and unemployment.


Young adults are much more likely to be paid below the London Living Wage, especially 16 to 20 year olds. 77% of jobs done by 16-20 year old Londoners pay below the London Living Wage. (This age group also has a lower minimum wage than older adults).

41% of jobs done by 21-24 year olds in London were paid below the London Living Wage. This is almost double the rate for 25-64 year olds, despite having the same minimum wage level. Moreover, the Government's "national living wage", implemented from April 2016, will only apply to those aged 25 and over.

Find out more about low pay and young adults.


Young adults are about twice as likely to receive a benefit sanction as other age groups. There is some variation among young adults between different ethnic groups, with 8.9% of Black Caribbean 18-24 year olds being sanctioned in a typical month in 2014, compared to 6.7% of White Other (the lowest rate for young adults).

Since 2012, single people aged under 35 without children are entitled to a reduced amount of housing benefit - based on the cost of renting a room in shared accommodation rather than a one-bedroom or studio flat. Prior to 2012 this only applied to people under 25. After this change, the proportion of young adults claiming housing benefit has fallen.

Find out more about housing benefit for young adults and benefit sanctions


Over the past decade, Inner London has seen significant improvements in the proportion of young adults with Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications (GCSE and A Level equivalents) so that the position is now better than in the rest of England.

Meanwhile, over the ten years to 2011, the proportion of 18 year olds in London who weren't in education, training or employment (NEET) fell slightly while it rose in most other regions.

Find out more about educational outcomes in London

For UK-wide data on poverty and age, visit MPSE