Indicator A2. Transition from education to work: Where are today's youth?

Highlights
  • On average across OECD countries, 14.3% of 18-24 year-olds are neither employed nor in education or training (NEET). In Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, South Africa and Turkey, over 25% of 18-24 year-olds are NEET.

  • The duration of unemployment NEETs experience varies across countries. On average across OECD countries, 1.5% of 18-24 year-olds are not in education and have been unemployed for more than a year. In Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Spain, 3.0% or more of 18-24 year-olds are in this situation, with Greece having the highest share, at 7.9%.

  • The share of young adults who are no longer in education and are looking for work is on average across OECD countries 1.9% for 15-19 year-olds; the share of unemployed NEETs rises considerably among 20-24 year-olds (6.2%) and remains at this level among 25-29 year-olds.

Figure A2.1. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds not in education, by labour market status (2018)
Figure A2.1. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds not in education, by labour market status (2018)

1. Year of reference differs from 2018. Refer to the source table for more details.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the total percentage of 18-24 year-olds not in education.

Source: OECD (2019), Table A2.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976574

Context

The length and the quality of the schooling that individuals receive have an impact on their transition from education to work, as do labour-market conditions, the economic environment and the cultural context. In some countries, young people traditionally complete education before they look for work, while in other countries education and employment are concurrent. In some countries, there is little difference between how young women and young men experience the transition from education to work, while in other countries significant proportions of young women go on to raise a family full time after leaving education and do not enter the labour force. When labour-market conditions are unfavourable, young people often tend to stay in education longer, because high unemployment rates drive down the opportunity costs of education, and they can improve their skills for when the situation improves.

To improve the transition from education to work, regardless of the economic climate, education systems should aim to ensure that individuals have the skills the labour market needs. Public investment in education can be a sensible way to counterbalance unemployment and invest in future economic growth, by building the necessary skills. In addition, public investment could be directed towards potential employers, through the creation of incentives to hire young people.

Being left out of employment can have long-lasting consequences, especially when people experience long spells of unemployment and become discouraged. Young people who are NEET are a current policy concern, with significant future consequences for individuals and society if insufficient action is taken to address this issue.

Other findings

  • Across all OECD countries, higher educational attainment is associated with lower NEET rates. On average, 40.1% of 25-29 year-olds without upper secondary education are NEET, compared to 16.8% of those with an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and 10.8% for those who completed a tertiary degree.

  • Between 2008 and 2018, access to higher education among young adults increased. In most countries, this access to additional educational opportunities has been accompanied by a diminishing share of young adults in employment. For example, in Spain the share of employed 20-24 year-olds not in education is 21 percentage points lower than in 2008, while the share of the same age group in education is about 18 percentage points higher.

  • The majority of female NEETs are inactive, while the unemployed account for a larger share of male NEETs. On average across OECD countries, 10.8% of women aged 18-24 are inactive and NEET, compared to only 6.5% of men, while 5.0% of women in this age group are unemployed and NEET, compared to 6.4% for men.

Note

This indicator analyses the situation of young people in transition from education to work: those in education, those who are employed, and those who are neither employed nor in education or training (NEET). The latter group includes not only those who have not managed to find a job (unemployed NEETs), but also those who are not actively seeking employment (inactive NEETs). Part of the analysis focuses on 18-24 year-olds, as this age group is no longer in compulsory education but a significant proportion of them will still be continuing their studies.

Analysis

Labour-market outcomes of young adults once they leave education

Many young people leave education between the ages of 18 and 24. On average across OECD countries, almost half (47%) of 18-24 year-olds have left the education system. In Colombia, Israel, Mexico and Turkey at least 60% of 18-24 year-olds are not in education, while in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia the share is below 40% (Figure A2.1).

Among 25-29 year-olds, on average across OECD countries, only 16% are still in education. However, in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Israel, over 25% of 25-29 year-olds remain in education (OECD, 2019[1]).

Young adults no longer in education may be employed, unemployed or inactive. On average across OECD countries, 33% of 18-24 year-olds are employed and no longer in education, meaning that most 18-24 year-olds who have left education are in employment. Among all 18-24 year-olds not in education, 80% or more are employed in Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In other countries, young people have experienced more difficulty entering the labour market when they leave the education system. For instance, in Greece and South Africa, over 30% of 18-24 year-olds who are not in education are unemployed (Figure A2.1).

Young adults who have not found employment upon leaving education are often referred to as NEETs: young people neither employed nor in education or training. On average across OECD countries, 14.3% of 18-24 year-olds are NEET. In Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland the share of NEETs is below 10%, while it is 20% or more in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and Turkey. In most countries, inactivity is more common than unemployment: on average across OECD countries, 8.6% of 18-24 year-olds are inactive NEETs and 5.7% are unemployed NEETs. However, in France, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Spain the share of unemployed NEETs exceeds that of inactive NEETs (Table A2.1).

Figure A2.2. Percentage of young adults not in education and unemployed, by age group (2018)
Figure A2.2. Percentage of young adults not in education and unemployed, by age group (2018)

1. Year of reference differs from 2018. Refer to Table A2.1 for more details.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of 25-29 year-olds not in education and unemployed.

Source: OECD (2019), Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976593

Unemployed NEETs by age group

The share of young adults who are no longer in education and looking for work increases with age. On average across OECD countries, 1.9% of 15-19 year-olds are in this situation. This low share is partly explained by compulsory education typically ending between the ages of 16 and 18 (see Table X1.3). The rate of unemployed NEETs rises considerably among 20-24 year-olds (6.2%) and remains at this level among 25-29 year-olds (6.1%). The share of unemployed NEETs is the lowest for the younger age group (15-19 year-olds) across all OECD and partner countries with data. The pattern for 20-24 year-olds and 25-29 year-olds is more varied across countries: in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Portugal and the Russian Federation the share of unemployed NEETs is at least 2 percentage points higher for 20-24 year-olds while in Denmark, Greece, South Africa and Spain the share is at least 2 percentage points higher among 25-29 year-olds (Figure A2.2).

Duration of unemployment for young adults who are unemployed NEETs

Young people who experience unemployment following graduation are more likely to be affected by unemployment later in their careers, and by lower earnings – the so-called “scarring effect” (Eurofound, 2017[2]). The duration of unemployment has a significant impact on their later labour-market outcomes. While the scarring effect is negligible for short-term unemployed youth – those who have been unemployed for under three months – it is increasingly important for the medium-term unemployed (who have been unemployed for at least three months and less than a year), and the long-term unemployed who have been unemployed for a year or more (OECD, 2015[3]).

On average across OECD countries, 2.0% of 18-24 year-olds are NEET and have been unemployed for less than 3 months, 2.8% have been unemployed for between 3 and 12 months, and 1.5% have been unemployed and NEET for 12 months or more. In other words, an important share of unemployment among NEETs is not a temporary situation where people are in the process of moving from one job to another, but a longer-lasting situation (Table A2.3).

Figure A2.3. Percentage of unemployed 18-24 year-olds not in education, by duration of unemployment (2018)
As a percentage of all 18-24 year-olds
Figure A2.3. Percentage of unemployed 18-24 year-olds not in education, by duration of unemployment (2018)

Note: The distribution of duration of unemployment may not sum up to the share of unemployed as these data were collected separately.

1. Year of reference differs from 2018. Refer to the source table for more details.

Countries are ranked in descending of the share of unemployed 18-24 year-olds.

Source: OECD (2019), Table A2.3. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976612

Greece and Italy have the largest proportion of long-term unemployed NEETs among all unemployed NEETs aged 18-24, where more than one in two unemployed NEETs have been unemployed for a year or more. In contrast, the lowest relative proportion of long-term unemployed can be found in Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States where less than 10% of unemployed NEETs have been in that situation for a year or more (Figure A2.3).

Gender gap among inactive NEETs

The majority of female NEETs are inactive, while a larger share of male NEETs are unemployed. On average across OECD countries, 10.8% of women aged 18-24 are inactive and no longer in education, compared to only 6.5% of men, while 5.0% of women of this age are unemployed and not in education, compared to 6.4% of men (OECD, 2019[1]).

Various factors contribute to people being inactive and not seeking employment. Among women, the main reasons for inactivity are childcare responsibilities, while health and other factors are more prevalent among men (OECD, 2016[4]). When interpreting the share of NEETs, it should be noted that a small share of inactive NEETs are only temporarily inactive and may soon re-enter employment, education or training. A small share of young adults may also have become discouraged and stopped looking for work because they believe that there are no job opportunities for them (Eurofound, 2016[5]).

The share of inactive NEETs among women increases with age, while it is more or less stable among men. On average across OECD countries, among 15-19 year-olds, 5.5% of women and 4.3% of men are inactive NEETs, a gender gap of less than 2 percentage points. Among 20-24 year-olds the shares increase to 11.6% for women and 6.5% for men, and among 25-29 year-olds to 16.5% for women and 5.6% for men, a gender gap of more than 10 percentage points (OECD, 2019[1]).

In Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Turkey, the gender gap in inactivity rates is at least 20 percentage points among 25-29 year-olds. Mexico and Turkey are the only two OECD countries where the gender gap is over 35 percentage points. In these two countries, as in many others, the overall high share of NEETs can mainly be attributed to the high share of inactive female NEETs (OECD, 2019[1]).

Educational attainment and the risk of becoming NEET

By the age of 25, most of young adults have either left education or are enrolled in education but have already attained a first tertiary degree. The typical graduation age from a bachelor’s or equivalent degree ranges from 21 to 24 years (see Table X.1a). Young adults who have left education without a tertiary degree are more likely to become NEET than those who completed one. On average across OECD countries, 10.8% of tertiary-educated 25-29 year-olds are NEET, while the share increases to 16.8% for those with an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and to about 40.1% for those without upper secondary education. The situation is especially severe for 25-29 year-olds without an upper secondary education in Lithuania, the Slovak Republic and South Africa, where the share of NEETs among 25-29 year-olds without upper secondary education exceeds 60%. It is also very high in the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Slovenia where at least half of 25-29 year-olds are NEET (Figure A2.4).

Attaining at least upper secondary education considerably reduces the risk of becoming NEET. The positive impact of further education on the risk of becoming NEET is especially great in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. In all these countries, the share of NEETs among 25-29 year-olds with an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is about one-third the share among those with below upper secondary education (Figure A2.4).

In Greece, Italy, South Africa and Turkey the share of NEETs exceeds one in five young adults aged 25-29 regardless of the level of educational attainment. Nevertheless, even in these countries, education pays off and the risk of becoming NEETs falls significantly with higher educational attainment (Figure A2.4).

Figure A2.4. Percentage of NEETs among 25-29 year-olds, by educational attainment (2018)
Figure A2.4. Percentage of NEETs among 25-29 year-olds, by educational attainment (2018)

Note: NEET refers to young people neither employed nor in education or training.

1. Year of reference differs from 2018. Refer to Table A2.1 for more details.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of NEETs among tertiary-educated 25-29 year-olds.

Source: OECD (2019), Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976631

Trends in the transition from education to work

In 2008, the year of the outbreak of the financial and economic crisis in many countries, the share of young adults neither in education nor employed was one of the lowest during the first decade of the 21st century. In 2008, on average across OECD countries, 15.3% of 20-24 year-olds were NEET, while in the years following the crisis the share of NEETs was much higher, reaching its peak in 2010/11 in many countries. Between 2010 and 2018, the share of 20-24 year-olds not in education nor employed fell by about 4 percentage points on average across the OECD, from 19.0% in 2010 to 15.3% in 2018, about the same level as a decade earlier (Table A2.2 and OECD (2019[1])).

In most OECD countries, the share of NEETs among 20-24 year-olds is higher in 2018 than in 2008, but several countries have been able to reduce the number of NEETs considerably. Among countries with comparable data for both 2008 and 2018, the relative decrease was the largest in Hungary where the share of NEETs fell from 18.4% to 15.4% (i.e. decrease of 16%). A large change is also observed in the United States where the share of NEETs fell by 14% (Table A2.2).

Over the last decade, the general trend of increased access to higher education among young adults has continued (see Indicator B1). In Spain the share of 20-24 year-olds in education increased by 18 percentage points from 34% in 2008 to 52% in 2018, the largest increase over this period. In Austria, the percentage of young adults still in education increased by almost 10 percentage points between 2008 and 2018 (Table A2.2).

In most of countries, increased access to education has been accompanied by a decreasing share of young adults in employment. Among OECD countries with comparable data between 2008 and 2018, the decrease over this period is at least 10 percentage points in Austria, Norway, Portugal and Spain for 20-24 year-olds. In Spain, the share of employed 20-24 year-olds not in education in 2018 is about 20 percentage points lower than in 2008, while the share of the same age group in education is 18 percentage points higher. Some countries show the opposite trend: in Hungary and New Zealand, the share of employed adults aged 20-24 not in education has increased between 2008 and 2018 while the share of young adults in education has fallen over the same period (Table A2.2).

Subnational variations in the percentage of young people who are NEET

The proportion of young people who are neither employed nor in education or training shows significant subnational variation as well as national variation across the OECD. Across the regions of the OECD, the share of 18-24 year-old NEETs can range from as low as 2.1% in one region in Japan, to as high as 48.1% in one region in Turkey. The national averages can also mask the regions which have much lower or higher NEET rates, often making them outliers within the country (OECD, 2019[6]).

In 18 OECD and partner countries, the subnational regions with the highest share of 18-24 year-old NEETs have at least twice as high a rate as the regions with the lowest shares. Within countries, the ratio of highest to the lowest share between regions reaches 12 in the Russian Federation, while in Spain there are about three times as many NEETs in the region with the highest share (30.7%) than in the region with the lowest share (9.9%) (OECD, 2019[6]).

In contrast, across the OECD and partner countries, regional differences in NEET rates are smallest in Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, where the difference between the regions with the highest and lowest shares is below 3 percentage points. Each of these countries has eight or fewer subnational regions. Finland, the Netherlands and Norway also have a relatively narrow range of NEET rates, the difference is less than 4 percentage points in the three countries (OECD, 2019[6]).

Income and job opportunities tend to be more concentrated in cities across the OECD (OECD, 2018[7]). However, distinct trends can be observed in the relative proportions of NEETS in capital cities across OECD countries. In many countries, such as Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Finland the region with the capital city has the lowest share of NEETS, while in Austria, Belgium and Germany, the capital city region has the highest NEET rate in the country (OECD, 2019[6]).

Definitions

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education attained by a person.

Employed, inactive and unemployed individuals: See Definitions section in Indicator A3.

Individuals in education are those who had received formal education and/or training in the regular educational system in the four weeks prior to being surveyed.

Levels of education: See the Reader’s Guide at the beginning of this publication for a presentation of all ISCED 2011 levels.

NEET: Neither employed nor in education or training.

Methodology

Data usually refer to the second quarter of studies, as this is the most relevant period for knowing if the young person is really studying or has left education for the labour force. This second quarter corresponds in most countries to the first three months of the calendar year, but in some countries to the spring quarter (i.e. March, April and May).

Education or training corresponds to formal education; therefore, someone not working but following non-formal studies is considered a NEET.

For information on the methodology for subnational regions, see Indicator A1.

Please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[8]) for more information and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Source

For information on the sources, see Indicator A1.

Note regarding data from Israel

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and are under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

References

[2] Eurofound (2017), Long term unemployed youth - Characteristics and policy responses, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/report/2017/long-term-unemployed-youth.

[5] Eurofound (2016), Exploring the diversity of NEETs, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, http://dx.doi.org/10.2806/62307.

[1] OECD (2019), Education at a Glance Database - Transition from education to work, http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?datasetcode=EAG_TRANS.

[6] OECD (2019), Regional Statistics Database - Early leavers from education and NEET, http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?datasetcode=REGION_EDUCAT.

[8] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264304444-en.

[7] OECD (2018), OECD Regions and Cities at a Glance 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/reg_cit_glance-2018-en.

[4] OECD (2016), Society at a Glance 2016: OECD Social Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264261488-en.

[3] OECD (2015), OECD Skills Outlook 2015: Youth, Skills and Employability, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264234178-en.

Indicator A2. Tables

Table A2.1 Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status (2018)

Table A2.2 Trends in the percentage of young adults in education/not in education, employed or not, by age group (2008 and 2018)

Table A2.3 Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status and duration of unemployment (2018)

Cut-off date for the data: 19 July 2019. Any updates on data can be found on line at http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-data-en. More breakdowns can also be found at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888933980811

Table A2.1. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status (2018)
Table A2.1. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status (2018)

Note: NEET refers to young people neither employed nor in education or training. See Definitions and Methodology sections for more information. Data and more breakdowns are available at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

1. Year of reference 2017.

Source: OECD (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader's Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976517

Table A2.2. Trends in the percentage of young adults in education/not in education, employed or not, by age group (2008 and 2018)
Table A2.2. Trends in the percentage of young adults in education/not in education, employed or not, by age group (2008 and 2018)

Note: NEET refers to young people neither employed nor in education or training. See Definitions and Methodology sections for more information. Data and more breakdowns are available at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

1. Year of reference 2017 instead of 2018.

2. Year of reference 2005 instead of 2008.

Source: OECD (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader's Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976536

Table A2.3. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status and duration of unemployment (2018)
Table A2.3. Percentage of 18-24 year-olds in education/not in education, by work status and duration of unemployment (2018)

Note: The data on duration of unemployment may not equal total unemployed numbers because of the presence of missing data.

1. Year of reference 2017.

Source: OECD (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader's Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933976555

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