The youth unemployment crisis has amplified the level of disengagement in Europe. Researchers and government officials have sought new ways of monitoring and analysing the prevalence of labour market vulnerability among young people. Since 2010, the concept of NEET – young people not in employment, education or training ­­– has been widely used as a tool to inform youth-oriented policies in the 28 EU Member States.

NEETs were specifically referred to for the first time in European policy discussions in the Europe 2020 flagship initiative ‘Youth on the move’; the term was broadened to include those aged 15–24 and, later, those aged 15–29. It is now centrally embedded in the policy discourse at EU level. Currently, 14.5% of the population aged 15–29 are NEETs.

On 7 December 2016, the European Commission launched the initiative Investing in Europe's Youth, a renewed effort to support young people, part of which is the EU Youth Guarantee.

To address the level of youth disengagement, reducing the number of NEETs is one of the explicit objectives of the Youth Guarantee. This 2013 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. NEET is also a key indicator for strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union and is used in the Employment Committee (EMCO) Youth Guarantee Monitoring Framework.

Eurofound’s work

In 2015, in the 15–29 age group, the overall number of NEETs was just under 14 million in the EU28, a NEET rate of 14.8% for that age group. With Youth Guarantee implementation, the number of NEETs has slightly decreased to 12.5 million in 2016 (14.5%). However, Eurofound research estimates the significant loss to European economies to be around €142 billion a year (2015) – in benefits and forgone earnings and taxes. The cost of NEETs has a significant impact on the economic and social development of the EU.

Key contributions

While the NEET indicator is a powerful tool for drawing attention to the problems of young people in today’s labour market, it brings together a heterogeneous group of young people with a variety of needs. To better assist policymakers in understanding who is represented in the NEETs group and to assist the design of adequate policy support, Eurofound has identified seven subgroups within the category of NEETs, based on data from the EU Labour Force Survey. 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

To date, Eurofound has carried out extensive research related to issues facing NEETs and has explored:

  • the diversity of NEETs
  • start-up support for young people
  • engaging the ‘missing middle’
  • the social inclusion of young people 
  • youth transitions in the labour market
  • the characteristics and costs of NEETs and policy responses
  • the rise in temporary employment among young people and access to social protection
  • working conditions of young entrants to the labour market
  • the effectiveness of policy measures to increase employment participation of young people
  • recent policy developments related to NEETs.

See the list of publications below.

Featured: Exploring the diversity of NEETs

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

​NEETs infographic

Ongoing work

  • Report on long-term unemployed youth: 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)
  • Policy brief on underemployment, long-term unemployment and in-work poverty