Who are the NEETs and why?

The NEET concept and definition is discussed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEET “Knowledge of the word spread after it was used in a 1999 report by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU”, so the term was less well known when the stretching of the UK’s national income distribution apparently became permanent around 1992.


Andy Furlong has written on Scottish NEETs, as a meaningless classification. http://wes.sagepub.com/content/20/3/553.short

“Not a very NEET Solution: representing problematic labour market transitions among early school-leavers”

The abstract says “…it is an ill-considered concept that places an undue and often misleading emphasis on voluntarism.”


He also wrote this paper (which I was able to read in full for free):


Furlong, A. (2007) “Supporting the Transitions of Vulnerable Youth: UK Perspectives”, in The Japan Institute for Labor Policy Training Report No. 5.


“First, modern youth transitions take much longer to accomplish …” “… today many young people fail to get established in the labour market by their mid-20s …”


Guilty as charged, M’Lud!


“Second … transitions have become much more complex.” “… people move between education, training, unemployment and jobs. In this context the term ‘yo-yo’ has been used to describe modern youth transitions (EGRIS 2001).”


Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.


“Third, this complexity and unpredictability leads to a situation where young people can feel that they are constantly confronted by risk.” This perception may be incorrect, but can still cause anxiety.


“Fourth” the complexity and uniqueness of each young person’s transition from full-time compulsory education makes it hard to learn from others, and can lead to self-blame.


“Fifth ” despite all the changes in youth transitions and their apparent unpredictability, pre-existing “… patterns of inequality have been maintained.” So that would include any extra inequality created during the 1980’s. Inequality indirectly influences the outcome of the prolonged “yo-yo” transition from compulsory education, it’s not at the forefront of the minds of NEETs. The practical things that are salient to them are explained in the following study.


All the participants in the following study were born after the inequality boom of the 1980’s, and would have grown up with it. The small 2014 study of NEETS aged 18-20 tends to confirm that the emphasis on most NEETs having a choice to stay at home is indeed “misleading”.


As in recent media coverage (BBC Radio 4 “Woman’s Hour”), the majority of the 7 NEET (and 13 recently ex-NEET) interviewees were female.


Barriers to entering EET included:

  • physical/mental illness,
  • looking after for someone else,
  • lack of flexible working conditions,
  • family breakdown,
  • pregnancy,
  • distance to work/college (in a rural area),
  • college fees,
  • lack of practical support,
  • lack of careers advice,
  • indecision as to which way to go, and
  • poor school attainment (due to special educational needs, discipline problems, health issues, or bullying).


Those who had recently entered education, employment or training had often done so through considerable personal effort and initiative. The complex and prolonged transition from full-time compulsory education was also emphasised here.


Only one of the group had a graduate parent. More typical was the one leaving Local Authority care.


How bad is UK graduate unemployment and underemployment?

Graduate unemployment 3 years after graduating has been under 4% since 2006 (the class of 2003).


Graduate median salaries were £5,500 above the median for the working population in 2012-13.


Of those in employment, 80.5% were in professional jobs in November 2014.


In 2014 there were 5.1 graduates working full time for every one working part-time, a year after graduation.


So, there may be some underemployment in terms of occupations and working hours, but little unemployment.





“More UK graduates are in work than at any time since the recession, new figures suggest.


Researchers asked almost 82,000 people who graduated in 2011 about their occupations in November 2014.”


ie these figures relate to the 3-years after graduation follow-up study.


“The last time that graduate unemployment was this low was in 2008, among graduates who left university in 2005, according to the figures.


Graduate prospects were worst in the 2010 survey when only 86.4% of were in work, three years after leaving university in 2007.


A total of 3.5% of this group were unemployed.”


Survey date Degree finished In Work (FT or PT), +/-Study Further Study (FT or PT), +/-Work Unemployed Other eg travel
2014 2011 87.9% 6% 2.6% 3.5%
2012 2009 87.1% 6.7% 3.2% 3.0%
2010 2007 86.4% 6.5% 3.5% 3.6%
2008 2005 89.7% 5.5% 2.6% 2.2%
2006 2003 89.3% 4.9% 2.3% 3.4%

* In Work includes those starting work that month.

Work/Study: Those doing both designated one of them as primary.


“In November 2014 the median salary of those graduates in full-time work in the UK was £26,000 and of those in employment, 80.5% were in professional jobs.


More than three-quarters (76%) of the graduates said their course had prepared them well for their career and two-thirds (66%) said it had been good value for money – but this group were at university before fees trebled to £9,000 a year in 2012.”


Some more details on the 1-year follow-up study here: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/sfr217


“In 2013/14, there were 424,375 UK and EU leavers (398,105 UK, 26,270 EU) whose destinations were known (427,870 in 2012/13).


Over two-thirds, 71% (303,300) of leavers (both full-time (70%, 244,045) and part-time (76%, 59,255)) were working, either in the UK or overseas, a slight increase from 70% of leavers in 2012/13.


A further:

6% were working and studying,

12% were involved in further study,

6% (full-time 6%, part-time)

3% were unemployed (the same as in 2012/13) and the remaining

5% were involved in some other activity, such as taking time out to travel or something else”


So there were 5.1 full-time workers to every part-time worker.





“The annual survey of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) indicates a 13.2% increase on 2014 in vacancies being offered by graduate recruiters.”


“The median starting salary for graduates in 2014-2015 was £28,000 – up from £27,000 in 2013-14 and a continuation of the steady increase from £25,000 in 2010-2011, £26,000 in 2011-2012 and £26,500 in 2012-2013.”





“The most recent SPI report (2012/13) gave annual median income as £21,000 before tax and £18,700 after tax.”


Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/personal-income-by-tax-year