25 June 2018

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 economic crisis has 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 term NEET is used to describe young people not in employment, education or training

The concept has been widely used as an indicator to inform youth-oriented policies on employability, education, training and also social inclusion in the 28 EU Member States since 2010. 

NEETs were specifically referred to for the first time in European policy discussions in the Europe 2020 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. Currently, 14.2% of the population aged 15–29 are NEETs. 

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 aims 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. 

More recently, on 7 December 2016, the European Commission launched the initiative Investing in Europe's Youth, a renewed effort to support young people. Given the positive impact of the Youth Guarantee to date, the Commission aims to boost and extend the finances available for the Youth Employment Initiative until 2020 to encourage more effective outreach to young people. 

Eurofound’s work

With Youth Guarantee implementation, the number of NEETs aged 15–29 has slightly decreased, from around 14 million at the height of the crisis to 12.5 million in 2016 (14.2%). However, Eurofound research still estimates the significant loss to European economies to be around €142 billion a year (2015) – in benefits and forgone earnings and taxes. This has a significant impact on the economic and social development of the EU. 

Key contributions

To date, Eurofound has pioneered 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. The latest 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.

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

Other research topics

In addition to the above study, in recent years Eurofound has explored (see publications 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.

See the list of publications below.

Featured: Latest reports on NEETs and long-term unemployed youth

4 July 2016 - Following on from Eurofound’s 2012 report NEETs – Young people not in employment, this report explores the diversity of NEETs through seven suggested subgroups into which the NEET population can be disaggregated, using data extracted from the EU Labour Force Survey of 2013. These subgroups allow for an improved analysis of how policies, social climate and the slow but gradual improvement of the job market have had an impact on the EU28 NEET population. They help to identify what can be done to address issues where, for example, the long-term unemployed account for 22% of NEETS aged 15–24. The 28 country profiles on the diversity of NEETs are also available and provide a snapshot of the NEET situation at Member State level. They look at trends in youth unemployment and NEET numbers, the compositions of the NEET group and their risk of social exclusion.
Exploring the diversity of NEETs

14 December 2017 - 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. Eurofound's report Long-term unemployed youth provides an updated profile of the youth labour market in 2016 and describes trends over the past decade.Building on previous research on the diversity of NEETs, this report describes the characteristics of this group, the determinants and consequences of long-term unemployment, and reviews policy measures to reintegrate long-term unemployed youth into employment, education or training (2017)
Long-term unemployed youth: Characteristics and policy responses

NEETs infographic 2012


    Ongoing work

    • Policy brief on underemployment, long-term unemployment and in-work poverty 

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