No Neet solution

Youth unemployment is high on the agenda – and there’s renewed focus on Neets, young people aged 16-24 who are not in employment, education or training.

This is important, because a period Neet can lead to long-term reductions in wages, employment chances and life satisfaction. Yet we know little about the geography of Neets.

As part of a research partnership with the Private Equity Foundation, we’re releasing new evidence today on the towns and cities in the UK with high Neet levels. The results are grim but predictable.

In places like Doncaster and Grimsby between one in five and one in four young people are Neet. In Oxford it’s only one in ten. And it looks like the situation has worsened since the recession, with larger increases in Neet levels in the cities where they were high to begin with. These results are driven by two, related factors.

These cities tend to have low skilled populations and high levels of unemployment in all age groups. Inter-generational worklessness may be a problem, and young people will have fewer role models and exposure to the world of work.

Alongside this, these towns will tend to have weaker economies anyway. As the economy has been increasingly based on high skill levels, cities with fewer skilled residents have done less well.

Yet we suspect Neet rates will worsen. As public sector cuts begin to bite, services for Neets will be affected. The third sector is often already strained. The labour market is also weak, and there’s evidence that the recovery is being led by London and the southeast, and there are simply fewer new jobs being created in other parts of the country.

There are no easy solutions to these long-standing problems. But there are some areas where improvements might be useful. Better service coordination could avoid young people falling through the gaps in provision. Improved integration of work experience – building soft skills and an awareness of the benefits and responsibilities of work – into schooling is also vital. This needs to happen across the board.

Many of the cities with worst Neet rates now have the best provision – Doncaster has a regular Neet operations group to ensure provision is accurate, and Grimsby offers continual tracking of Neets aged 16 – 18.

These are all good initiatives. But fundamentally, these figures are driven by the national economy. Before the recession, Neet rates were actually in decline. But in many of these towns and cities, Neet rates could get worse before they get better.

Neil Lee
Neil Lee is senior economist at The Work Foundation.


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