[Excerpt] Youth unemployment, and the question of how to effectively engage as many of Europe’s young people as possible in the world of work, has been at the heart of the EU policy agenda since 2010. While the situation is now improving with youth employment rates that are finally slowly increasing, in 2013 over 5.5 million young Europeans aged 15–24 years were still unemployed – the highest level of youth unemployment ever recorded in the history of the EU.
In light of the youth unemployment crisis 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 Member States of the European Union. The term covers unemployed and inactive young people not enrolled in any formal or non-formal education. Since its inception, the NEET concept has proved a powerful tool in enhancing understanding of young people’s vulnerabilities in terms of labour market participation and social inclusion. As arguably the best proxy to measure the extent of young people’s disadvantage, the NEET indicator can integrate subgroups such as young mothers and young people with disabilities – groups particularly at risk of being marginalised under the traditional ‘inactive’ label – into the policy debate. Moreover, the NEET indicator has helped to redefine policy objectives in the youth area and has become a crucial addition to key monitoring frameworks in the EU’s economic and social sphere.
However, despite the speed with which it gained traction in the policy arena, the NEET concept has sometimes been criticised because of the heterogeneity of the population it captures. While all NEETs share the common feature of being young people who are not accumulating human capital through either the labour market or education, the various groups within this category have very different characteristics and needs. This has important consequences for policy responses. Although governments and social partners have rightly set targets to reduce the overall NEET rate, their interventions may fall short unless some attempt is made to understand the subgroups covered by the concept and to meet their specific needs.
This report examines the NEET indicator and uses variables captured routinely by the EU Labour Force Survey to disaggregate the NEET population into seven subgroups. It provides an analysis based on the data available for each subgroup and describes the composition and characteristics of Europe’s NEET population at both EU28 level and in each Member State. Finally, it proposes a synthetic overview of NEETs profiles by country.