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Lost in Transition? The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training

Authors: Katherine Jones

24 May 2012

The large numbers of young people who are NEET- not in employment, education or training- is a serious social and economic problem. The latest NEET figures released today show that there are still huge numbers of young people struggling to get into the labour market. The 2012 quarter 1 figures are the highest first quarter figures since the start of the recession. Around one million young people in England are NEET – that’s almost one in every six 16-24 year olds. Our new report ‘Lost in Transition: The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training’ considers the changing economy and characteristics of the NEET group and how this has impacted on the ability of young people to make successful transitions from school to work.   

Unsurprisingly NEET numbers have increased in recent years as the recession has disproportionately hit young people. Yet the NEET problem was growing before this. Something else is going on and a better understanding of the nature and support needs of this group is needed. Our report sheds light on this alongside the implications of wider labour market change. As the graph below demonstrates, we find not only that taking the first step into employment is often the hardest, but that this is getting harder for many young people. This accounts for most of the growth in NEET levels.

 

                             Source: Labour Force Survey

Yet NEETs are a heterogeneous group which includes some who are unemployed and looking for work, others who have caring responsibilities, and some with long term disabilities or health conditions. Policy must take into account the diversity of the NEET group, the varying durations young people spend NEET, the barriers faced by some young people as they try to enter the labour market and the different ‘transition’ points at which young people become NEET. It must also reflect changing demand in the economy.

 

While there is a pressing need to help those who are NEET now, prevention is what we need in the longer-term. In particular, support during precarious ‘transition’ periods is key. We need a greater focus on support for young people taking their initial (and hardest) step into employment, better coordination of local services and closer working between schools, businesses and Government. Improving the qualification levels of young people is also critical as is improving the routes into and progression routes within some of the growing service sector occupations which employ large numbers of young people.