Literature Review of Research on Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


1. Executive Summary
This literature review builds upon a report completed for the Wavehill Economic and Social Research agency submitted in December 2018. It aims to provide an updated supplementary overview of research on young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). Its main focus is on UK literature published since 2008; however, the review also draws where relevant on older literature and international research published in English. Specific aims of the review include the following:
•Provide an in-depth, critical definition of the term ‘NEET’ in its policy context
•Map the structure of the NEET ‘population’ and the way this structure has changed since the onset of recession in 2008
•Identify factors and indicators associated with an increased risk of becoming NEET, and illustrate some approaches to predicting the likelihood of an individual becoming NEET in the future
•Critically evaluate and differentiate between practice-level preventative and reintegration interventions

Methodology and Process: A rigorous review of English language publications on young people not in education, employment or training was conducted using the web-scale discovery service Summon in addition to a range of other approaches, including searches of specific databases, searching the websites of government departments, and searching forward from the bibliographies used in established academic texts. For further details, refer to section 2, ‘Methods and scope of the literature review’.

•The NEET category is now used across the globe to characterise labour-market vulnerability amongst young people. Definitions of NEET have shifted with time to include older age groups (see subsection 3.2, ‘Defining the NEET category’).
•Defining the NEET population is complex and typically a range of structural and individual circumstances need to be considered if holistic understandings are to be achieved (refer to subsection 3.4, ‘Criticisms of the NEET concept’ and Sections 4 and 5).
•The NEET population includes a diverse range of individuals from a variety of educational, economic and social backgrounds (refer to Section 4, ‘Structure of the NEET population’).
•Individuals may become NEET because of a number of intersecting circumstances such as lack of employment opportunities, insufficient qualifications, paucity of suitable and affordable childcare, health and personal challenges, (see Section 5, ‘Individual risk factors associated with becoming NEET’).
•Individual risk factors associated with becoming NEET typically include disadvantaged family backgrounds, low educational attainment, negative school experiences, mental and physical ill-health and disability. However, these need to be considered within the context of depressed local labour markets and poverty induced living circumstances. Having a combination of several risk factors greatly increases the likelihood of becoming NEET (see Section 5, ‘Individual risk factors associated with becoming NEET’).
•It is possible to use statistical models to predict the likelihood of an individual becoming NEET. However, there is a trade-off between accuracy of prediction, coverage of the potential NEET population and cost-effectiveness (see Section 6, ‘Interventions for NEET and ‘at risk’ young people’).
•Interventions need to be understood within current political and policy climates. There is increasing interest in programmes aimed at preventing young people from becoming NEET, and it is generally thought that earlier interventions are more successful. However, assessing evaluations of interventions is problematic due to a lack of rigorous trial designs, the diverse nature of interventions, and the difficulty of long-term monitoring of outcomes (see Section 6, ‘Interventions for NEET and ‘at risk’ young people’).
•Where rigorous evaluation has been conducted, positive impacts are often found to be quite small. However, even relatively small impacts can benefit significant numbers of young people (see Section 7, ‘Evaluating interventions’).
•There may be a mismatch between the findings of qualitative and quantitative evaluations, and some interventions have been found to have negative impacts on outcomes for young people (see Section 7).
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyWavehill Social and Economic Research
Number of pages57
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Mar 2022


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