August 15, 2012 • 3:44 pm

“Foreign workers are being given jobs above young Britons because companies think that they are ‘lazy and uneducated’, an employers’ group said today.

“The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, has warned ‘young people in Britain just don’t want to work’.”

Daily Mail, morning of 15 August 2012

“Lazy Brits fuel immigration”

Daily Star, 15 August 2012

On the day that the ONS revealed the latest statsitics on the state of the UK labour market, two major publications suggested that young British workers were losing out to competition from abroad, implying that they were workshy and uneducated.

Could it be that attitude is a major source of youth unemployment? Full Fact decided to investigate.

Analysis

The papers’ source for their quotations appears to be the employers’ group the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Although each quotation is not referenced explicitly, the Mail refers to a report released by the CIPD which they claim states that ‘failing UK schools and poor education standards are “forcing UK firms to choose foreign workers”.’

The Star prints the same quotation but does not attribute it to the CIPD directly, only to a ‘report released yesterday’.

Given that the papers do not provide any further references for the quotations found at the top of this article it is reasonable to assume that they are also attributed to the CIPD.

What report?

After contacting the CIPD’s press office Full Fact confirmed that, despite the Mail and Star’s claims, the CIPD did not release a report on the employability of British school-leavers this week.

In fact, the organisation’s most recent release on the issue was last summer when they published their Labour Market Outlook and accompanying press release which compared the intentions of employers to hire young British workers with their intentions to hire migrant workers.   

The table below presents key statistics on the intentions of more than 1000 employers for the third quarter of 2011 which were published in the above press release (dated 23 August 2011):

 

Intention

Percentage of employers

Hire EU migrant workers

34%

Up-skill existing workers

23%

Recruit more graduates

18%

Offshore jobs abroad

8%

Hire 16 year-old school-leavers

12%

Recruit school-leavers aged 17-18

25%

Take on higher education leavers under the age of 24

38%

Recruit apprentices

37%

So migrant workers from the EU certainly seemed to be more attractive than school leavers to these employers at least. However based on these figures alone, we cannot know why.

Gerwyn Davies (Public Policy Adviser at CIPD) provides one interpretation:

“Employers seem eager to take full advantage of this [the absence of an EU migration cap], to make use of their positive attitude and their skills. The perception among many of our members is that too many young people in the UK do not have these qualities, which may explain why fewer young people are being hired.”

This is supported by evidence in the report. The graph below presents the CIPD’s findings on the surveyed employers’ assessments of young people for work:

What does this say about young British workers?

The data would suggest that last summer there were, indeed, some issues with the percieved employability of young British workers.

However, it’s essential to note that this does not necessarily demonstrate causality. Although it is reasonable to assume that a negative assessment of young people’s preparedness to work is likely to deter firms form employing young people, we cannot know for certain that there is a perfect correlation with their employment plans: it is possible, for example, that other factors such as wage levels weigh into the determination.

“Lazy and uneducated” – according to who?

Interestingly, the quotations used by the Mail and the Star cannot be found in the report or the associated press release.

The press office of the CIPD were unable to tell us where the quotations were coming from and informed us that they had asked the Daily Mail to remove their name from the article as they did not want the statements to be attributed to the organisation as a whole.

It is, of course, possible that a CIPD advisor spoke to the Mail and/or Star independently but it is important to stress that the quotations cited in these media outlets have neither been published by the CIPD nor represent the official line of the organisation.

We were also informed that the CIPD would soon be releasing research:

“that shows there is a gap between perceptions and reality. Those employers who have hired young people actually have very positive experiences of their work ethic and the value they add in the workplace.”

We contacted the Mail to ask them about where, exactly, their quotations were coming from but we have yet to hear anything back.

Conclusion

As far as we can tell, the claims made in the Daily Mail and Daily Star are based on year-old data which they wrongly suggested was up-to-date. It is worth noting that the Mail, however, has since adjusted the article to include the date of the report.

More worrying though are the quotations attributed to the CIPD which paint an image of young British workers that is simply cannot be found in the CIPD’s report or press release. Unsurprisingly, the CIPD is not impressed.

However, until these assertions of “lazy, uneducated” workers can be backed up by evidence, they can’t for the time being be substantiated.      

Update (16 August 2012)

We are pleased to report that both the Mail and the Star have taken action following criticism of their reporting on this issue.

The Mail has rewritten its article, removing all uses of the term ‘lazy’ and no longer refers to the CIPD at all. The Star has taken the article down from its website completely.

Full Fact welcomes these moves but would happier if both papers publish a formal correction as it is likely that many readers would not have noticed the change.

Today the CIPD informed us that they believe the source of the problem is a press release (entitled ‘Young People in Britain just don’t want to work’) that Hillgrove PR sent out on behalf of property maintenance company, Aspect. The release supposedly misunderstood the time of the report’s publication, and the PR firm couldn’t vouch for the source of some quotes.

Full Fact has seen a copy of the press release and notes that, although the CIPD are quoted as stating that “Britain’s failing schools are ‘forcing UK firms to choose foreign workers’ who are hard working, punctual and have a more positive attitude”, the term lazy does not appear in the release at all. We still don’t know where the Mail and Star got this from.     

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