By / December 18, 2013

NEETs: Young people not in employment, education or training

With youth unemployment in the EU reaching record highs, NEETs are increasingly moving to the centre of EU policymakers’ attention….

© hikrcn /
© hikrcn /
© hikrcn /

With youth unemployment in the EU reaching record highs, NEETs are increasingly moving to the centre of EU policymakers’ attention. NEETs are young people who are not in employment, education or training. In 2011, some 14 million young Europeans aged 15 to 29 were affected,according to according to a report by Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. NEET rates are highest in Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland and Spain (above 17%) and lowest in Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (below 7%). Experts often relate high NEET rates to difficulties in the transition from school to work.

Being disengaged from the labour market in younger years can have negative long-term social consequences, not only for the young person but also for society. Eurofound estimates the economic cost of NEETs at over €150 billion per year (1.2% of EU GDP). What makes NEETs so problematic is that they are often invisible, hard to reach and difficult to reintegrate. There are common risk factors for becoming NEET, such as dropping out of school, a low level of education, a migration background or a disability. Yet the group is very heterogeneous and requires different policy approaches.

In its Youth Employment Package of 5 December 2012, the European Commission proposed several measures on tackling youth unemployment in the EU such as introducing national youth guarantees. There is a special focus on NEETs, which are also a funding priority for the European Social Fund 2014-2020.

This keysource compiles a selection of resources, statistics and case studies from the United Kingdom and Ireland.


Young people and ‘NEETs’/ Eurofound, 4 October 2013. This info graphic offers a quick glance at what NEETs are, where they can be found and who is at risk of becoming NEET. It presents common policy measures to protect young people at risk and to reintegrate those affected.

Young people and NEETs in Europe: First findings/ Massimiliano Mascherini, Eurofound, 2011, 8 p. This summary provides a background on the economic cost and the social dimension of being NEET. The author argues that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the NEET group, as young people become NEET for various reasons.

Employment: Commission urges Member States to urgently implement Youth Guarantee to help young jobless/ European Commission, MEMO/13/984, 12 November 2013. This memo briefly describes the EU’s approach to lift NEETs out of disengagement by the Youth Employment Initiative. It includes 2012 NEET rates per Member State.

What makes a NEET?/ Karinne Logez, OECD education today blog, 29 May 2013. This blog post shows the development of NEET rates in OECD countries: from 16,1%  in 1997 down to 14% in 2007, followed by a continuous increase to 15,8% in 2011.

How difficult is it to move from school to work?/ Education indicators in focus, OECD, April 2013, 4 p. This note describes the importance of smooth school-to-work transitions for young people’s entry into the labour market. This is supported by lower NEET rates in OECD countries with flexible school-work-arrangements.


NEETs – Young people not in employment, education or training: Characteristics, costs and policy responses in Europe/ Massimiliano Mascherini et. al., 22 October 2012, 171 p. Executive summary
This is the most comprehensive report on NEETs in the EU to date. Starting with an analysis of the labour market situation of young people, it then describes the NEET group and its characteristics in detail. The report concludes with reintegration policies, from preventing early school-leaving, smooth school-to-work transitions to fostering the employability of young people.

Recent policy developments related to those not in employment, education and training (NEETs)/ Eurofound, 2012, 26 p. This report summarises recent NEET-specific policy interventions in the EU27 and Norway. It finds that Member States have adopted adequate policy measures targeted at the various NEET sub-groups and describes different country approaches.

What measures can be taken to address the specific problem of young people who are NEET?/
Sue Maguire, Review of European Economic Policy, July 2013, 9 p. This paper investigates preventive and re-integrative strategies for NEETs. It describes the main difference between both strategies according to “where” and “when” they apply. The author recommends combining both strategies with active labour market policies, supported by a ‘well-resourced tracking system’ for an early detection of young people at risk.

Settling in: OECD Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2012/ OECD, 2012, 24 p.
This OECD study on immigrant integration contains a chapter (6.3) on NEETs with parental migration background. On average, they make about 17% of 15-to-34 year olds in OECD countries.

Withdrawal from the public employment service by young unemployed: a matter of non-take-up or of non-compliance? How nonprofit social work initiatives may inspire public services/ Liesbeth Van Parys & Ludo Struyven, European Journal of Social Work, Volume 16, Issue 4, 2013, 27 p. This article investigates the withdrawal of NEETs from public employment services and looks into alternative activation approaches. Conclusions are drawn from a case study on the Flemish public employment service (VDAB).

EU Member States: United Kingdom & Ireland

The term ‘NEET’ first appeared in the 1980s in the United Kingdom. Most research is therefore available on the UK and refers to 16-to-18 year old NEETs. Even though most studies are country specific, conclusions and policy recommendations are often applicable to other EU countries.

Lost in transition? The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training/ Paul Sissons, Katy Jones, The Work Foundation, May 2012, 48 p. This paper identifies individual costs of being NEET (such as wage scarring, increased participation in crime, reduced employability, poorer well-being, reduced self-confidence) as well aggregated public finance costs (estimated to range between £12bn and £32bn) of 16-18 year old NEETs in the UK.

Digital Exclusion Profiling of Vulnerable Groups: Young People not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET): A Profile/ UK Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008, 65 p.This is  avery detailed portray of NEETs in the UK which also looks into gender differences in the NEET group: “at age 16, boys are twice as likely as girls to be NEET”.

Estimating the life-time cost of NEET: 16-18 year olds not in Education, Employment or Training/ Bob Coles et. al., Final Draft, The University of York, 2010, 55 p. Divides NEETs by subgroups (f. e. teenage mothers, young carers, “looked after children” etc.), calculates ‘resource cost’ and ‘life-time cost’ of NEETs and provides different case studies for different NEET sub-groups.

Transitions from school to work: Applying psychology to ‘NEET’/ (via EBSCO Host). Christopher Arnold, Tracey Baker, Educational & Child Psychology 2012, Vol. 29, Issue 3, 14 p. Looks at the NEET group from a psychological point of view and describes conditions for successful “screening in education” to early identify at-risk youth. Furthermore, it identifies and groups potential risk factors.

Early Occupational Aspirations and Fractured Transitions: A Study of Entry into ‘NEET’ Status in the UK/ Scott Yates, Angel Harris, Ricardo Sabates, Jeremy Staff. Journal of Social Policy, 2010, 22p.

A stitch in time: tackling educational disengagement/ Sonia Sodha, Silvia Gugliemi, Demos, 2009, 96 p. This report discusses educational disengagement among 16-to-18 year olds in England. It outlines different risk-factors of becoming disengaged and looks into the role of learning attitudes, social background and educational reforms.  It describes tools for tackling disengagement and where and how they take place.

The Impact of the Recession on the Structure and Labour Market Success of Young NEET Individuals in Ireland/ Elish Kelly, Seamus McGuiness, ESRI working papers 465, 13 September 2013. In the aftermath of the crisis, the number of NEETs in Ireland increased from 11,8% in 2006 to 24% in 2011. School-to-work transition rates fell dramatically.  Based on available data, the paper points to much needed policies such as the redesign of vocational-type qualifications.

Young people not in Education, Employment or Training/ Northern Ireland Assembly, 2009, 34 p. This research paper provides another calculation of NEETs, differentiated in personal costs (wasted potential, low self-esteem, depression) and social costs (levels of underachievement, cultural disaffection, poverty, crime). It estimates the total cost for Northern Ireland to be £250 million p.a.

Related legislative procedures

Youth Employment Initiative. COM (2013) 0144 final. 12 March 2013. The Youth Employment Initiative shall provide financial support of the Youth Employment Package.

Youth Employment Package: On 5 December 2012, the European Commission announced a package of measures to tackle high youth unemployment in the EU. See also the related Library keysource.
Moving youth into employment. COM (2012) 727 final. See also SWD (2012) 406 final.
Towards a Quality Framework on Traineeships. (COM(2012) 728 final). See also SWD (2012) 407 final and SWD (2012) 408 final.
Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Establishing a Youth Guarantee. COM (2012) 729 final.

Youth Opportunities Initiative. COM (2011) 933 final. Launched by the European Commission in 2011, the Youth Opportunities Initiative called for strong partnerships between the European Commission and EU Member States. See also the related Library briefing.


Young People – education and employment patterns: Neither in employment nor in education. Eurostat, last updated 29 May 2013. See also the Eurostat table on Early leavers from education and training [tsdsc410].

Youth Unemployment. EU policies to tackle youth unemployment. Library briefing, 14 May 2012, 7 p. Library briefing on youth unemployment which also provides data on NEETs for EU Member States.

Youth neither in employment nor education and training (NEET) Presentation of data for the 27 Member States. European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, 2010. Gives a detailed description (based on data from 2009) on who is affected (gender, age group) and the development of NEET-rates between 2000 and 2009.

Young people being left behind the crisis. CEDEFOP, Statistics & Indicators, 15 November 2011.

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