NEETs and NEET policy across the UK – conference on findings from a major research project

Oct 30, 2019

On the 11th of October, 2019, the SKOPE Research Centre presented key findings from a major Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project on young people Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) across the four UK nations.

The project has charted how many localities across the UK continue to battle with the problem of young people whose transitions from learning to earning have not gone well and with the persistence of a substantial NEET population.  Although NEET policy at national level in England has a relatively low profile, in the other three UK nations its visibility is considerably higher and there are significant programmes in place to identify, track and assist young people who are NEET.  Our research has explored the different policy approaches and trajectories across the four UK nations and seeks to draw lessons from these differences.

The project has also produced a timeline showing the shifting size and composition of the NEET population. Our analysis of representative time-series data going back several decades has uncovered a number of trends, chief among them that over the 1990s NEET rates fell considerably, but since the 2000s these rates have plateaued. These inert NEET rates hide changing compositions: a slower rate of improved educational attainment, and an increase in the incidence of mental ill health, particularly affecting inactivity hazards for the male NEET population.

Drawing on Understanding Society microdata, we examined the impact of mental orientations (hope) set against family disadvantage. Our findings illustrate the direct associations between increases in young peoples’ hopeful pathways-thinking and significantly lower likelihoods of being NEET. However, estimations also emphasize the relative strength of such associations, as far greater risks emerge with family processes (either having responsibility for a child, or having experienced parental worklessness during adolescence) in the context of the British welfare state. Thus, while building young peoples’ mental capacity for negotiating education or employment may prove an additional cost effective policy approach, the persistent factors for NEET youth today remain the need to improve on the feasibility of training or work alongside childcare responsibilities, and to minimise scarring from the 2008-9 recession.

The study substantiates arguments in favour of extending definitions of the NEET population and attendant policy interventions to encompass young adults in their mid-to-late 20s; key obstacles to labour market integration among NEETs across the UK are currently mental ill health and child care – obstacles which do not simply cease being problematic at age 24.

The findings were presented to a crowd of key policymakers, academics, and members of various thinktanks from across the four nations in a panel format, allowing for lively debate and discussion. The presentations for each panel have been shared below:


Panel Session 1 – How has the profile of the NEET population changed over time and what underlies these changes?
ORA NEET conference Session 1

Panel Session 2 – How have the four UK national governments’ policies on NEET diverged?
ORA NEET conference session 2

Panel Session 3 – Policy implications and the future
 ORA NEET conference – Session 3