What is the advantage of NEET

Europe's youth are unemployed: who are the NEETs?

To the background

Since 2010, youth unemployment and the consideration of how the entry into work of as many European young people as possible can be effectively promoted have been central concerns on the political agenda of the EU. Although there are currently signs of improvement due to the finally - albeit slowly - increasing youth employment figures, in 2013 more than 5.5 million young Europeans between the ages of 15 and 24 were not in work - an all-time high of youth unemployment in the history of the EU.

Since 2010, the NEET phenomenon (adolescents and young adults who do not pursue any employment, training or further education) has been an important input in the youth policy measures of the 28 EU member states. Since its inception, the NEET concept has proven to be a powerful tool to improve the understanding of the vulnerabilities of young people with regard to their participation in the labor market and social inclusion. Thanks to the NEET indicator as the most suitable factor for assessing the extent of the disadvantage of young people, sub-groups such as young mothers and young people with disabilities - who are particularly at risk of being classified in the traditional category of “inactive” and thus excluded - are included in political debates considered. In addition, it has helped to redefine political objectives in the youth field and is a crucial addition to central monitoring frameworks in the economic and social sphere of the EU.

Although the NEET concept has quickly gained traction in the political arena, it is sometimes criticized because of the heterogeneity of the population covered. In principle, NEETs are young people who do not contribute human capital either to the labor market or through education; However, the various groups in this category are characterized by very different characteristics and needs - with considerable consequences for political countermeasures. Governments and social partners have set suitable targets for lowering the NEET rate; their interventions, however, could come to nothing if they do not try to develop an understanding of the subgroups and to respond to their respective needs.

The analysis is based on the data collected for each subgroup and describes the composition and characteristics of Europeans with NEET status both in the EU-28 and in each Member State. The report concludes with an overview of the NEET profiles in the individual countries.

Political context

The NEET concept originated in the UK. The term first appeared in the 1990s in the context of political discussions about the need to reintegrate young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who had not taken up employment after leaving school. NEETs were specifically mentioned for the first time in the political debates in Europe in the European flagship initiative “Youth on the move” within the framework of the EU 2020 strategy; the term was subsequently extended to young people between the ages of 15 and 24 and later to the 15 to 29 year olds and is now more common terminus technicus in the political discourse of the Commission, Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Reducing the NEET rate is one of the stated goals of the Youth Guarantee. The EU 2013 initiative aims to ensure that all young people aged 15-24 receive a high-quality offer of a job, further training, apprenticeship position or internship four months after losing a job or completing formal training . The term NEET is also a key indicator for strengthening the social dimension of Economic and Monetary Union and is used in the indicator framework developed by the Employment Committee (EMCO) for monitoring the implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

Essential findings / findings

The NEET indicator is not a perfect tool, but it is an essential tool to better understand the extent of the various vulnerabilities of young people with regard to their participation in the labor market and the risk of social exclusion. With the help of seven sub-groups for the division of the so-called NEET population in Europe, a number of specific concerns and characteristics can be identified, where policy initiatives developed with a sense of proportion could effectively address.

Sociodemographic factors: Research shows that the proportion of NEETs also increases with age, and that young women are more likely to be included in the NEET group.

Level of education: The largest NEET group is made up of young people from upper secondary school - the so-called “neglected middle”, which often falls out of political discourse. Beyond the absolute numbers, however, the likelihood of becoming a NEET still decreases with increasing level of education: that is, education is demonstrably the best protection against unemployment and exclusion. However, the countries of southern Europe and the countries bordering the Mediterranean have high rates of well-trained NEETs as a result of the crisis.

Registration with the labor administration: While more than half of the NEETs cannot find a job and around 70% of them would like to work, just 57% of them are registered as jobseekers with the employment service - which would be a basic requirement for funding under the Youth Guarantee.

Composition of the NEETs: The short- and long-term unemployed young people make up slightly more than half of the NEET population (29.8% and 22%, respectively). Almost 8% of NEETs are repeated (re-entrants) and 15.4% became NEETs due to family responsibilities, and 6.8% became NEETs due to illness or disability. Just under 6% are “discouraged” young people. No causes could be identified for the remaining 12.5% ​​NEET youngsters.

Differences between the country clusters: the size and composition of the NEET population varies considerably between Member States. In the Nordic, western and continental countries, the largest groups tend to be short-term unemployed, while in some southern countries and the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the proportions of long-term unemployed and discouraged youth are higher. In Eastern European countries, young women make up the majority of NEETs because of their family responsibilities.

Policy conclusions

Advantages of the “NEET” concept: The NEET concept is a powerful tool to focus public opinion and the attention of policy makers on the problems of young people - especially on the vulnerability patterns within this group. Thanks to this concept, certain sub-groups such as young mothers and young people with disabilities have found their way into political debates.

Distribution of the NEET population: In order to take account of the heterogeneity identified by the NEET indicator, governments and social partners should make their political measures more targeted by focusing more on the different characteristics and needs of the individual subgroups of the NEET population.

Participation of young women in the labor market: The EU Labor Force Survey data leave open if young people voluntarily or involuntarily become NEETs; however, the risk of being affected by NEET status due to their motherly duties almost exclusively affects young women. This finding clearly speaks in favor of the need for increased political backing for initiatives that encourage young women to enter the world of work.

Eurofound is a tripartite agency of the European Union that provides knowledge to help shape social and labor policies. (To the website)

Translation: Petra Waldraff, Essen


  • Exploring the diversity of NEETs

    Eurofound (2016), Exploring the diversity of NEETs, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
    This PDF document with the file name "Exploring the diversity of NEETs.pdf" is 2.9 MB in size.