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NEET is an acronym for ‘not in employment, education or training’, used to refer to the situation of many young persons, aged between 15 and 29, in Europe. The aim of the NEET concept is to broaden understanding of the vulnerable status of young people and to better monitor their problematic access to the labour market.


Recent updates

Key messages

  • NEETs emerged as one of the most vulnerable groups following the 2008–2013 Great Recession. Youth unemployment soared above 40% in many EU countries, highlighting how young people are more vulnerable to economic recession than other age groups.
  • In the EU27, the share of NEETs aged 15–29 peaked at 16.1% in 2013 with some improvement in the subsequent years due to policy measures like the Youth Guarantee. By 2019, the rate had fallen to 12.6%, the lowest point in 10 years.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic restrictions have contributed to an increase in the NEETs rate to 13.7% in 2020, as a result of job loss and barriers to education and training for young people
  • The high number of NEETs has cost the European economies an estimated €142 billion a year (2015) in benefits and forgone earnings and taxes.
  • The NEETs rate for young women aged 15–29 in the EU stood at 15.4% in 2020 and remains higher than the rate of 12.1% for young men. The share is higher for young women in almost all Member States. 
  • There is high concern among policymakers that young workers will be the next victims of the COVID-19 economic fallout. Eurofound’s ‘Living, working and COVID-19’ survey of Europeans’, launched in three rounds in April and July 2020 and in March 2021, shows that young people are grappling with the crisis situation. 
  • Worrying levels of mental well-being are reported among young people in the EU, especially when it comes to feelings of loneliness and depression, where young people are suffering the impact of pandemic restrictions and reduction of social interactions more than the older population. 
  • Young people are also experiencing greater job loss and insecurity about their professional and financial futures. The impact of the pandemic on education is also damaging young people’s opportunities to accumulate human capital. The suspension of schooling is likely to hinder skills formation, while reinforcing inequalities between the most privileged and the most vulnerable.
  • Despite the negative effects of the crisis on young people, they remain slightly more optimistic than other age groups: 53% in April and 57% in July compared with 44% and 48% for over-30s reported feeling optimistic about their future. 
  • Young people still trust the EU (6.1 out of 10) slightly more than they trust national governments (5.0). Nonetheless, the implementation of new lockdowns and restrictions on movement risks bearing serious economic and social costs for young people’s employability and wellbeing. While representing a response to the health crisis, their wider societal and economic effects also need to be assessed carefully and taken into account by policymakers.

Eurofound research

With Youth Guarantee implementation, the number of NEETs aged 15–29 has decreased, from around 14 million at the height of the 2008–2013 crisis to 9.3 million in 2019 (12.6%). However, Eurofound research still estimates the significant loss to European economies to be around €142 billion a year (2015) – in benefits and foregone earnings and taxes. This has a significant impact on the economic and social development of the EU. 

With the situation of young people now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurofound will look at the impact of the crisis on these figures, building on its previous research on youth. 

Focus of research

Eurofound has pioneered almost a decade of extensive research on NEETs (see publications below) and has:

  • performed the first EU comparative analysis on NEETs
  • explained who NEETs are
  • estimated the economic costs of NEETs
  • investigated the social consequences of being NEETs
  • estimated risk factors of falling into the NEET category
  • investigated the effectiveness of policies for reintegrating NEETs
  • monitored Youth Guarantee implementation. 

Diversity of NEETs

As part of this research, Eurofound has sought to unravel the heterogeneity of the NEET population. Its 2016 study on the diversity of NEETs provides a new categorisation into seven subgroups in order to better understand the composition of this group of young people. The aim is to better assist policymakers in understanding who the NEETs are and to assist the design of adequate support measures to meet a wide variety of needs. Each of these groups is made up of a mix of vulnerable and non-vulnerable young people who are not accumulating human capital through formal channels, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Eurofound's 2021 study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people will include an update of the diversity of NEETs based on 2019 data. 

Image: Seven subgroups of NEETs - Re-entrants, Short-term unemployed, Long-term unemployed, Unavailable due to illness or disability, Unavailable due to family responsibilities, Discouraged workers, Other inactive


COVID-19 and NEETs

Eurofound carried out an online survey on Living, working and COVID-19 in three rounds during April–May and July 2020 and in February–March 2021 to establish the initial impact of the pandemic on the lives of EU citizens. Young people in Europe are feeling the strong impact of pandemic restrictions as they cope with the lowest levels of mental well-being and high levels of loneliness. Young men also appear most affected by job loss in the current crisis.

NEETs emerged as one of the most vulnerable groups following the 2008–2013 Great Recession. The major concern now is how these young people will again be affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19. 

Impact of COVID-19 crisis on young people

New research will assess the situation of young people in the EU. Building on its previous research on youth, Eurofound will examine the impact on young people as part of its ongoing study on the ‘Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on young people’, in particular their economic and social situation, with a focus on employment. It will also estimate how the NEET population has changed in size and composition over the last decade, and how the current crisis might affect this. The report will also collect and examine the most important policy initiatives adopted in the EU Member States to support young people during the crisis, particularly measures related to employment, education and financial help.

Other related research topics

In addition to research on the diversity of NEETs, over the years Eurofound has explored (see publications section below):

  • the characteristics and values of youth entrepreneurship
  • how to engage the ‘missing middle’: young people with second-level education who do not follow academic routes into higher education
  • the social inclusion of young people 
  • youth transitions in the labour market
  • the rise in temporary employment among young people and access to social protection
  • working conditions of young entrants to the labour market
  • recent policy developments related to NEETs

Key outputs


Following a long recovery from the economic crisis (2007–2013), young people in the EU proved to be more vulnerable to the effects of the restrictions put in place to slow...

9 November 2021
Research report

The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases across Europe this autumn has quickly erased hopes that the virus had been contained and confirmed the surge of another wave of the pandemic...


The concept of NEET (young people not in employment, education or training) has, since 2010, been widely used as a tool to inform youth-oriented policies in the 28 Member States...

4 July 2016
Research report

EU context

Lowering youth unemployment, and aiming to effectively engage as many of Europe’s young people as possible in the world of work, is at the heart of the EU policy agenda. The 2008–2013 economic crisis led to high levels of youth unemployment and thus disengagement among young people. In light of this, researchers and government officials have sought new ways of monitoring and analysing the prevalence of labour market vulnerability and disengagement among young people. 

The NEET concept has been widely used as an indicator to inform youth-oriented policies on employability, education, training and also social inclusion in the EU Member States since 2010. 

NEETs were specifically referred to for the first time in European policy discussions in the Europe 2010 flagship initiative ‘Youth on the move’. The age category covered by the term was 15–24 and was later broadened to include those aged 15–29. The concept is now centrally embedded in the policy discourse at EU level. In 2019, 12.6% of the population aged 15–29 were NEETs, which was the lowest point for a decade, but following the COVID-19 pandemic this increased to 13.7% in 2020. 

In April 2013, the European Commission’s proposal to the Council of the European Union to implement a Youth Guarantee in all Member States was adopted. Reducing the number of NEETs is an explicit policy objective of the Youth Guarantee. This initiative aimed to ensure that all young people aged 15–24 receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. The roll-out of the Youth Guarantee across Member States, via the Youth Employment Initiative, has contributed to improving the situation on the ground, reducing the number of NEETs. 

In December 2016, the Commission launched the initiative 'Investing in Europe's Youth', a renewed effort to support young people. Given the positive impact of the Youth Guarantee up to that point, the Commission increased the finances available for the Youth Employment Initiative until 2020 to encourage more effective outreach to young people. 

A new EU Youth Strategy was adopted in 2018 and sets out a framework for cooperation with Member States on their youth policies for the period 2019–2027. The strategy focuses on three core areas of action, centred around the words ‘engage, connect, empower’. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is having a grave impact on apprenticeships and training. To aid the economic recovery from the pandemic, on 1 July 2020 the new Commission launched a Youth Employment Support package to provide a ‘bridge to jobs’ for the next generation. The Commission put forward a proposal for a Council Recommendation on ‘A Bridge to Jobs – Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee’, to replace the 2013 Recommendation. It extends the age range covered by the Youth Guarantee from age 24 to 29. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, proposed by the European Commission in March 2021 and followed by a declaration at the Porto Social Summit in May 2021, introduced new, ambitious targets for young people, such as reducing the rate of NEETs from 12.6% (2019) to 9% by 2030.

Eurofound expert(s)


Eszter Sandor is a senior research manager in the Social Policies unit at Eurofound. She has expertise in survey methodology and statistical analysis, has worked on the preparation...

Senior research manager,
Social policies research unit
Publications results (17)

During the pandemic, many young people had to change their plans for the future. While at the end of 2023 young people’s labour market situation was more favourable than it had been in recent years, many obstacles remained on their route to independence, such as the rising cost of living and

21 May 2024

Following a long recovery from the economic crisis (2007–2013), young people in the EU proved to be more vulnerable to the effects of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people were more likely than older groups to experience job loss, financial insecurit

09 November 2021

While the youth labour market has improved considerably since 2014, one legacy of the recent economic crisis is the large cohort of long-term unemployed young people, which represents nearly one-third of jobless young people. This report provides an updated profile of the youth labour market in 2016

14 December 2017

The concept of NEET (young people not in employment, education or training) has, since 2010, been widely used as a tool to inform youth-oriented policies in the 28 Member States of the European Union. While it has been a valuable addition to more traditional indicators used to understand the

04 July 2016

Against a background of high youth unemployment, policymakers are paying more attention to encouraging young people to start their own businesses as a means of easing their entry into the labour market.

13 April 2016

Youth unemployment policy has tended to focus on two groups: young people with low educational attainment and those with higher education who have failed to find work. However, there is a large group of middle attainers who tend to be overlooked by policy – young people who have completed second

23 March 2016

Since the onset of the economic crisis, the unemployment level among young people has risen sharply and although an improvement is now being registered some EU countries still have stubbornly high youth unemployment rates. Young people, especially those who are not in employment, education or

23 September 2015

Young people in Europe continue to experience great difficulties in entering the labour market. Although the youth unemployment rate in a few Member States has started to fall, overall 23% of young European job-seekers aged 15–24 could not find a job in January 2014. In 2012, 14.6 million young

23 July 2014

Youth unemployment rates in Europe are dramatically high. Many EU Member States have implemented youth employment policies that facilitate and support young people’s pathways through education to employment and tackle such diverse issues as early school leaving, school-to-work transitions and

20 December 2012
Research report

The proportion of people aged 65 and over will rise from 17% to 30% of the EU population by 2060, while at the same time the working age population will decline. The European Commission estimates that most of the increase in public spending in the EU over the next 50 years will be on pensions, long

28 November 2012

Online resources results (3)

Young people and long-term unemployed – Remaining challenges in the labour market Informal Meeting of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) - Employment & Social Policy, 17-18 April 2018, Sofia, Bulgaria Presentation by Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Director, Eurofound

17 April 2018

Lithuania: Social partners sign memorandum of cooperation to implement Youth Guarantee

In January 2014, social partners agreed to cooperate in implementing the Youth Guarantee in Lithuania. They will seek to ensure that young people acquire the appropriate competencies and qualifications and be offered a job or continued education/training within four months of leaving education or

Spain: New findings on labour market performance of university graduates

The 2013–2014 annual report providing data on the Spanish university system focuses on the graduates of the 2005–2006 academic year, describing their subsequent labour market situation, including unemployment rates, self-employment, type of contract, income and mobility. In general, the data show

Blogs results (2)

Europe has weathered a number of storms in recent years, yet despite the Great Recession, the migration crisis and the challenges posed by Brexit, the EU continues on a stable path to economic recovery, closer cooperation and cohesion. However, the legacy of the crisis lives on in the number of

3 May 2018

In this blog, originally posted in Social Europe, Massimiliano Mascherini looks at the enduring issue of long-term unemployment among young people. Despite considerable improvement in the labour market participation of youth in recent years, the legacy of the crisis is still visible in the

17 April 2018
Data results (4)
20 September 2023


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