An analysis by the trade union body, released to coincide with the latest unemployment figures, shows that the proportion of young people not in employment, education or training is at its highest level since 1994.
This means that 20.4 per cent, or one in five, young people are neither working nor studying full-time – the highest level since October 1994.
This is despite the fact that the number of young people in education has been on a steady upwards trajectory over the last two decades - 41 per cent of young people are now in full-time education, compared to just 24 per cent in 1992.
Young men currently have a higher chance of being in either work or education than young women, with 80.6 per cent studying or in work, compared to 78.5 per cent of young women.
However, the TUC argued that young men still have a lower chance of being in work or education today than 20 years ago.
The TUC is calling on government to introduce a guarantee of training or paid employment to any young person out of work for at least six months. It also wants government to establish a new youth credit to provide more training and job seeking support to the young.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “It’s particularly worrying that long-term joblessness for young people is still rising, even as overall unemployment falls.
"If this continues, we could lose a generation of talented and highly qualified youngsters to blighted careers, debt and under-achievement.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers’ union the NASUWT, said young people were facing a “looming crisis”, with youth unemployment at record levels, applications to university falling and the number of young people staying in education post-16 falling.
“Sustained, long-term investment in academic and vocational education and a statutory requirement for employers to provide quality apprenticeships and training places should be a priority for this coalition government but, instead of supporting young people, it panders to the unreasonable whims and wishes of business,” she said.
According to the TUC analysis, young people’s employment and education participation rates peaked in the summer of 2001 at 85 per cent. They then underwent a slow decline until the recession of 2008, after which they deteriorated sharply.
The drop has not been due to falling levels of educational participation, which have remained stable during the recession, but falling employment rates, the TUC says.