Having a good work ethic is more important than skills in securing a first job, according to a new study.
Eight in ten employers rated attitudes to work as important when recruiting for 'entry level' posts, compared to just 38 per cent who named literacy and numeracy.
The report from the Centre for Social Justice think-tank comes just days after business leaders branded many British youngsters too lazy and ill-educated to compete for jobs.
They were responding to a plea from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s to ‘give our young people a chance, and not fall back on labour from abroad’.
The report found that poor work attitudes among the long-term jobless were the major barrier to tackling unemployment.
It called for a fourth 'R' - responsibility - to be added to schools' traditional core subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Asked why they turned down applicants for unskilled jobs in sectors like catering, manufacturing and retailing, 62 per cent of employers cited 'poor work attitude and ethic'.
Bosses blamed 57 per cent on 'poor presentation', compared to just 29 per cent who complained of lack of academic skills.
'Entry level' jobs of this kind make up about one-third of the total UK workforce of 27 million, but many are taken by migrant workers, said the report.
Around 80 per cent of the jobs created under Labour went to migrant workers, and official figures suggest the figure has risen since the coalition government took power last year.
The CSJ report said: 'Many employers told us that they believe students should leave education 'work ready' and that currently too many students fall short.
'Timekeeping, self-awareness, confidence, presentation, communication, teamwork and an ability to understand workplace relationships are too often below the standard required, particularly in younger jobseekers.
'The education system needs to also focus on the fourth R, responsibility, enabling young people to take GREater ownership over their future, to seek out the information that they need to make the right choices now, and to understand how their decisions today are likely to affect their future.'