Clegg Pledges to Cut U.K. Youth Unemployment to Lowest-Ever Rate

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will pledge Saturday to cut the youth unemployment rate to its lowest ever as he seeks to shore up support for his Liberal Democrat party five days before the general election.

Clegg is planning to set up a task force within the first 100 days of the new government to help young adults find work, his party said in an e-mailed statement. With polling showing neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor the Labour opposition set to win an outright majority, the Liberal Democrats could find themselves back in power after May 7 as part of another coalition.

“By the end of this parliament I want us to cut youth unemployment to its lowest levels since records began,” Clegg is due to say. “The number of jobless young people was rising long before the financial crash in 2008. But because we rescued the economy, created jobs and invested in a record 2 million apprenticeships, we have turned the corner.”

Clegg is trying to regain credibility with younger voters after backtracking on a 2010 election pledge not to raise university tuition fees. He’s presented the Liberal Democrats as a restraining force that could give the Conservatives a “heart” and Labour a “brain” in government.

While the party has hemorrhaged support since the last election and is expected to lose more than half its 57 seats, pollsters say it could still hold the balance of power.

Over the next five-year parliamentary term, the Liberal Democrats aim to cut youth unemployment by 100,000, taking the rate for those age 16 to 24 below the 11.8 percent recorded in 2001 and 2004, from 14 percent in January, the Liberal Democrats said, citing Office for National Statistics figures.

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