Brown unveils job plan to avoid lost generation

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised on Wednesday to help an extra 85,000 young people to find work or training and avoid creating a “generation lost to work”.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown (L) arrives at the "Backing Young Britain" conference in Birmingham, September 2, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

With Britain mired in its worst recession for decades and unemployment at a 10-year high, Brown is under pressure to create new jobs and preserve posts threatened by the global economic downturn.

The Labour Party trails the Conservatives in opinion polls less than a year before the next election, where unemployment and the economic recovery will be key issues.

“No one who lived through the recessions of the 1980s and ‘90s can ever forget the way that tens of thousands of young people were left to be written off as a generation lost to work,” Brown said in a statement. “We will not make that mistake.”

At an employment summit in Birmingham, the government said it would give 85,000 young people the chance to enter training, apprenticeships or jobs in retail and tourism.

Its latest employment drive, Backing Young Britain, is supported by more than 150 companies, including Microsoft, Centrica and Virgin Media.

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said the extra help for young people would guarantee that they will not be out of work for more than a year.

“For every 100,000 people you get off the dole (unemployment register), you save about 700 million pounds. That is worth it for our economy,” she told Sky News.

Unemployment reached 2.4 million people in the three months to June, its highest since 1996, and many analysts think it could reach three million this year.

Conservative work and pensions spokesman Theresa May said last week three million people have not had a job since before 1996, a year before Labour came to power.

“These are people that have been hidden away by Labour for the past 10 years,” she said in a speech.