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Studies have shown that time spent NEET can have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health, and increase the likelihood of unemployment, low wages, or low quality of work later on in life.

37% of the young people who were NEET in the second quarter of 2018 were unemployed. The remaining 63% were economically inactive, which means they were not working, not seeking work and/or not available to start work.

NEET trends

The proportion of 16-24 year olds who were NEET remained relatively steady between 2002 and 2008, and at the beginning of 2008 13.4% were NEET. The proportion increased following the 2008 recession and peaked in July-September 2011 when 16.9% of 16-24 year olds were NEET (1.25 million people). Since then the number of people who are NEET has been falling.


Historically more women than men have been NEET, but the gap has narrowed over recent years. In the second quarter of 2018, slightly more men were NEET than women.

The main reason why there has been a fall for women is a large fall in the number of women who are inactive because they are looking after their family or home.

The number of men who are inactive has been rising over the last couple of years mainly due to an increase in the number of men who were either long term sick or disabled.

International NEET Statistics

In 2016, the proportion of 15-19 year-olds who are NEET in the UK was higher than the OECD average, but it was less than the OECD average for 20-24 year olds and 15-29 year olds.

Of the OECD countries, Iceland had the lowest proportion of 15-29 year olds who are NEET (5.3%) and Turkey had the highest (28.2%).

Policies to reduce the number of people who are NEET

Some of the policies in place that aim to reduce the number of people who are NEET include:

  • The September Guarantee entitles all 16 and 17 year olds to an offer of a suitable place in education or training, while the participation age was raised to 18 in 2013.
  • Various steps have been taken to help young people find sustained employment, such as the expansion of the apprenticeships scheme, reforms to technical education, improved careers advice and the removal of Employer National Insurance Contributions to young people.
  • The government is funding various schemes that look to improve the education outcomes for disadvantaged young people, and those with learning difficulties or disabilities. Support for unemployed people to find work is provided through JobCentre Plus.


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