Neither working nor studying, the fate for millions of youth worldwide

Millions of youth around the world have essentially given up looking for a job since the onset of the crisis, reflecting an increasing detachment from the labour market.

News | 17 May 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Millions of youth around the world have essentially given up looking for a job, warned the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a new report.

The youth unemployment rate (at 12.6 per cent in 2011) would be a full percentage point higher if it included the number of young people who have dropped out of the labour market, said the ILO in its Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012 report (

The crisis-linked withdrawal from the labour market is particularly strong in developed economies, according to the report.

Of particular concern are young people who are neither in employment nor in education or training – known by the acronym NEET in many countries, “disconnected youth” in the United States and “ni-ni” (neither-nor) in Spanish-speaking countries.

This group has been growing since the onset of the crisis, reflecting an increasing detachment from the labour market among young people, the report said.

If youth are economically inactive because they are in education or training, they invest in skills that may improve their future employability, but NEETs risk both labour market and social exclusion.


Selected national and regional NEET figures

  • In 2010, 15.6 per cent of youths in the United States were neither employed nor in education or training.
  • In New Zealand the NEET rate was 13.1 per cent and in Japan, 9.7 per cent while the OECD average was 12.8 per cent.
  • In the European Union, the rate increased 1.9 percentage points from its pre-crisis level of 10.9 per cent, and exceeded 15 per cent in Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Romania and Spain.
  • Data for 24 developing economies show an average NEET rate of 12.4 per cent for young men and 28.1 per cent for young women.
  • In the developed world, NEETs tend to have a low education level, a low household income or an immigrant background. By contrast, young people who postpone their job search by remaining in the education system, tend to have higher education levels to start off with.
  • In developing economies, on the other hand, NEETs tend to be less poor than young people who have jobs, as employment is often poverty-driven and many young men have no alternative but to work.

Tools to tackle the problem

Several countries are seeking to tackle the issue through measures related to education, employment and school-to-work transition.

In the European Union, many countries have set up initiatives to give school dropouts a chance to re-enter education, often combined with practical training.

In Bulgaria and Romania, where withdrawals from schools are often poverty related, the state provides assistance programmes that includes free snacks, text books and transport.

Several countries offer incentives, such as tax relief, to encourage companies to recruit and train young people and where possible create additional jobs.

The US administration earlier this year launched a joint initiative with business leaders and communities to provide summer jobs to hundreds of thousands of “disconnected” and low-income youths to help them gain work experience, skills and contacts.

Policies based on partnership approaches with stakeholders beyond the public sector have also been shown to be particularly effective.

The ILO report is published ahead of the ILO’s May 23-25 global Youth Employment Forum ( in Geneva that will bring together over 100 young people from around the world to discuss the youth employment issue.