The "death" of Saturday jobs is ruining young people's chances of getting a job in a market that increasingly values work experience.
A report shows that young people without degrees are becoming trapped in a vicious circle, which emerged long before recession hit.
Youth unemployment began rising in 2005, says the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a trend accentuated by a dearth of casual work. The number of full-time learners with evening or weekend jobs has halved in the past 15 years, to two in 10, with opportunities in bars and shops in "long-term decline".
Jobs like this are forecast to stagnate further over the next decade, whereas managerial and professional occupations are growing - and these roles are filled "overwhelmingly" by graduates.
At the same time, work experience is becoming more critical for getting a job.
From 1998-2010, the share of private-sector employment in large businesses (ie, 250-plus employees) dropped from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, while the proportion of workers in small businesses (1-4 employees) doubled to 22 per cent.
Small companies are more likely to value work experience when recruiting, and 29 per cent of all employers deem it "critical". In recent years less than a quarter of employers have hired a young person directly from education - although those that do tend to find the recruit well prepared for work.
Smaller employers also tend to rely on informal recruitment methods, such as word of mouth, but these connections "tend to be built up over time and through experience of work, so young people are far less likely to have them".
The emphasis on work experience causes a problem. The report observes that young people "can't get work because they haven't got experience and they can't gain experience because they can't get work".
It states: "The death of the Saturday job, alongside employers recruiting through word of mouth and a lack of progression opportunities, means more young people than ever before are facing unemployment or under- employment."
Work experience needs to be redefined, the report adds, not as one or two weeks at 14-16, but as "a broad and varied series of engagements".