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

Analysing the status of 18-24 year-olds is particularly important, as young people usually complete upper secondary education around the ages of 17 to 19 (see Indicator B1). Across OECD countries, a little over half of 18-24 year-olds are still in formal education or training (54%), either full time or part-time. In Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia, over two-thirds of young people in this age group are enrolled in education (Table A2.1). However, a significant share of young children at the age of upper secondary education, may be out-of-school. The Sustainable Developement Goal (SDG) 4 agenda captures through SDG Indicator 4.1.4 the percentage of young people in the official age range for upper secondary education who are not enrolled in school (Box A2.1).

The extent to which education is combined with employment in early adulthood varies considerably across countries. Overall, 34% 18-24 year-olds who are in education tend to be inactive in the labour market, while 18% combine some form of employment with education, on average across OECD countries. The share of adults in education and employed for 18-24 year-olds in education is over 35% in Australia, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway. Some of these students’ jobs are connected to their study programme, allowing them to gain relevant work experience, develop technical skills and connect with potential employers, although many countries do not collect information on the type of work students are doing. Work-study programmes, which combine inter-related periods of study and paid work, are relatively common in some countries. In both France and Switzerland, for example, half of those who are both in education and employed, are pursing such programmes. This includes those in apprenticeships, which in France are also available at tertiary level. In Germany nearly half of those who are in education and employment are pursuing a work-study programme. In other countries it is common to combine studying with holding a job, but not through an integrated education programme. It may involve a variety of types of employment, including student jobs. For example, in Australia 36% of 18-24 year-olds are employed and in education – 5% pursuing work-study programmes and 30% holding another type of job – while only 10% are in education and inactive in the workforce. Even where it is not part of the curriculum, employment may still help students develop broad employability skills, like team work and conflict management, thereby facilitating the transition into employment (Table A2.1). At the same time, student employment may have adverse effects (e.g. stress, drop-out), especially when it involves intensive working to cover subsistence costs (e.g. (Choi, 2018[4])).

Over two-thirds of 18-24 year-olds are not in education in Colombia, Israel New Zealand and Türkiye. In New Zealand 57% of young people in this age group are not in education and employed and 14.3% are NEET, while in Israel 49% are not in education and employed and 17.5% NEET. On average across countries, around one-third of young people in this age group are employed and not in education and the share exceeds 40% in Australia, Austria, Mexico, Israel New Zealand and the United Kingdom, suggesting that young people can find jobs relatively easily (Figure A2.3). Cross-country differences may not be only due to labour-market conditions; they can also be explained by looking at typical graduation ages. In countries where students complete their education earlier, more 18-24 year-olds are employed and not in education than in countries where they graduate at an older age.

The share of young people who are NEET is a key indicator of the ease of transition from education to the labour market. Across OECD countries about 14.7% of 18-24 year-olds are NEET, while in Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Türkiye and South Africa, the share is over 25% (Figure A2.3.3). In Chile, data is from 2020 and it was collected in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This could explain the high rates of NEETs. Preventing youth from becoming NEET or minimising how long they are NEET for is essential. Youth who are NEET not only miss out on immediate learning and employment opportunities, they also suffer from long-term effects. NEET status has been associated with various adverse outcomes, such as lower employment rates and lower earnings later in life (Helbling and Sacchi, 2014[2]; Möller and Umkehrer, 2014[8]; Ralston et al., 2021[1]), poor mental health (Basta et al., 2019[9]) and social exclusion (Bäckman and Nilsson, 2016[10]).

Data on the labour force status of 25-29 year-olds help to explore the labour-market transition among young people who will have mostly completed their initial education.

The education and employment status of 25-29 year-olds varies considerably with educational attainment. On average across OECD countries, 29% of this age group with general upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment are still in education, the rest are either employed (55%) or NEET (around 17%). Those with vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment are much less likely to be enrolled in education (only 9% on average) while 75% are employed and around 17% are NEET. Among those who have tertiary education as their highest attainment, 19% are in education (presumably studying a master’s or doctoral or equivalent degree), while 72% are employed and around 10% are NEET (Table A2.2).

Overall, there is no difference in NEET rates between those holding a vocational or a general upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary qualification. Austria (6.5%) and the Netherlands (5.4%) have the lowest share of 25-29 year-old NEETs with general upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment while Costa Rica (31.7%) and Türkiye (33.3%) have the highest. NEET rates among VET graduates at this level are particularly low in Denmark (7.1%) and the Netherlands (5.9%), while Chile (31.8%), Costa Rica (29.8%) and Greece (33.3%) have the highest share of NEETs among those with vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment (Figure A2.1). The higher rates in Chile may be due to the fact that data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Across the OECD, NEET rates among 25-29 year-olds tend to be lowest for those with tertiary attainment. The difference is most notable in Costa Rica and Lithuania, where the difference between tertiary graduates and those with general and vocational upper secondary non-tertiary attainment is more than 15 percentage points in favour of those with tertiary attainment. In some countries, however, tertiary graduates are more likely to be NEET. In Denmark, for example, the NEET rate is 10.7% among tertiary-educated individuals and less than 8% among those with general and vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment. Similarly, in Austria, those with a general upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education have lower NEET rates than those with a tertiary qualification (Figure A2.1). In Denmark, over the last decades (the last 15 years) fewer students have enrolled in VET, which has led to the interpretation of a loss in prestige for VET. Hence, fewer individuals with vocational skills and a continuous demand in the labour market makes it easier for workers with skills to find work. In addition, upper secondary vocational education in Denmark is based on apprenticeships, which can ease entrance to the labour market (Jørgensen, 2017[7]). Austria’s dual vocational education system may have helped smooth the entrance of these graduates into the labour market (Bauer and Gessler, 2017[12]).

Within individual countries, there is often much regional variation in the share of young people who are NEET. In some regions a very high share of young adults are NEET. Regional disparities in the share of NEET youth are strongest Greece, Italy and Türkiye. In these countries the gap between the region with the highest share of 18-24 year-old NEETs and the region with the lowest share is higher than 25 percentage points. Regional disparities are smallest in Denmark, Ireland and Norway where the gap between the highest and lowest regions is below 2 percentage points (OECD, 2023[13]).

It should be noted that in the dataset the number of regions per country varies. In general, the countries with more regions in the dataset have larger gaps between the regions with the highest and lowest shares of NEET youth.

Most young people who graduate from vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education do so between the ages of 15 and 34. From there, they can pursue different pathways, further studies or joining the labour market. Data on their employment status reveals how successful this transition is for young people with different educational backgrounds. In this section, data from the European Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) are complemented by data from national Labour Force Survey for the United Kingdom, to allow for a more in-depth analysis of the transition from school to work.

Figure A2.4 shows the share of young people (who were aged 15-34 at graduation) who are NEET one to three years after having completed their upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education. In most countries, in the first three years after graduation, NEET rates are higher for those who pursued a vocational programme than a general one. One reason for this could be that general upper secondary graduates tend to go on to tertiary education after their studies and therefore stay in education longer than their peers in VET who are less likely to pursue a tertiary education. However, there are some exceptions, particularly among countries with low NEET rates for VET graduates. For example, in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands NEET rates among recent VET graduates do not exceed 10% and are below NEET rates for general upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary graduates. The transition from VET to employment or further studies also appears to be smooth in Austria, Belgium, and Sweden where no more than 11% of VET graduates are NEET one to three years after graduation. There are five countries (France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Spain) where more than one in five recent VET graduates are NEET, suggesting difficulties in the transition from VET to the labour market.

NEET rates for young adults with tertiary education (aged 15-34 at graduation) are considerably lower one to three years after graduating than for those with lower educational attainment. In most countries, the share of NEETs among young recent graduates is lower for those with a master’s, doctoral or equivalent degree than for those with a bachelor’s or equivalent degree. There are some exceptions such as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany,Greece and Italy (Table A2.3). This may depend on the country’s labour-market needs and the ability of the education system to respond to these. In Germany, low NEET rates at tertiary level might be related to the relatively high number of vocational programmes at bachelor's and equivalent level with a close link to the labour market. In some countries, there may be an urgent need for certain skills or professionals, so bachelor’s graduates with those skills or who can perform specific jobs can join the labour market faster without needing a master’s or equivalent degree.

For upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary VET graduates, the data showed in Figure A2.5 are only available for 28 OECD and accession countries. In most of these, employment rates are higher three to four years after graduation than one to two years after, suggesting that transition into jobs may take some time. Employment rates after at least five years are variable for VET graduates. In more than half OECD and accession countries with available data, employment rates are lower five years after graduation than three to four years after graduation but the opposite is the case in several other countries (e.g. Greece (8 percentage points), Romania (8 percentage points) and Spain (7 percentage points) (Figure A2.5 and Table A2.4)). One reason for this may be the labour market’s inability to absorb recent graduates. Another may be the education system’s failure to transfer the skills graduates need to enter the labour market (OECD, 2022[14]).

Among young tertiary graduates, there is a similar pattern of employment rates being higher three to four years after graduation than one to two years after, perhaps because they have already acquired some work experience or engaged in non-formal learning, but then falling back somewhat in the next few years. The average employment rate among tertiary graduates is 88% one to two years after graduation, climbing to 91% in the three to four years following graduation, then 89% after five years or more. This pattern holds for bachelor’s and master’s or doctoral graduates. However, employment rates continue to increase with time even after five years for bachelor’s graduates in some countries (the Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, for instance). For graduates of master’s, doctoral or equivalent programmes, the pattern is similar. In Greece and Italy the increases in employment rates after three to four years are particularly marked. In Greece, the employment rate among master’s or doctoral graduates increases from 66% one to two years after graduation to 91% after three to four years, while in Italy the increase is from 73% to 89% (Table A2.4). These patterns may reflect the labour market’s ability to integrate graduates in certain sectors. Some jobs may require constant upskilling and reskilling, or work experience may be essential. This would hinder individuals’ ability to join the labour market in later years.

Although vocational programmes are designed to prepare their graduates for the labour market, they may also serve as a route to higher levels of education (see Chapter B1). The extent to which graduates of upper secondary VET programmes pursue tertiary programmes varies considerably across countries. Box A2.2 explores the educational background of students in bachelor’s or equivalent programmes. In some countries, short-cycle tertiary programmes largely serve VET graduates (e.g. Austria, Belgium Portugal and Slovenia). In contrast, in Canada, where there are no differentiated vocational tracks in upper secondary education (except in Quebec), short-cycle tertiary programmes most commonly enrol general upper secondary graduates, but also serve students who already hold a tertiary qualification (25% of students). In Denmark, too, more than half of students in short-cycle tertiary programmes are general upper secondary graduates and 16% hold a prior tertiary qualification (Table A2.5, available on line).

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education successfully completed by an individual.

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

Individuals in education are those who are receiving formal education and/or training.

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

NEET refers to young people neither employed nor in formal education or training. However, the definition of NEET is different for subnational data collection for countries taking part in the EU-LFS, where young adults who are in non-formal education or training are not considered to be NEET.

Vocational programmes: The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011) defines vocational programmes as education programmes that are designed for learners to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies specific to a particular occupation, trade, or class of occupations or trades. Such programmes may have work-based components (e.g. apprenticeships and dual-system education programmes). Successful completion of such programmes leads to vocational qualifications relevant to the labour market and acknowledged as occupationally oriented by the relevant national authorities and/or the labour market.

Work-study programmes are formal education/training programmes combining inter-related study and work periods, for which the student/trainee receives pay.

Data from the national labour force surveys usually refer to the second quarter of studies in a school year, 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 (i.e. January, February and March), but in some countries to the second three months (i.e. April, May and June).

Education or training corresponds to formal education or training; therefore, someone not working but following non-formal studies is considered NEET. However, the definition of NEET is different for subnational data collection for countries taking part in the EU-LFS, where young adults who are in non-formal education or training are not considered to be NEET. For OECD EU countries, NEET rates by subnational region are therefore not comparable to the rates at national level presented in this indicator.

Data on the education and labour-market status of recent graduates by years since graduates are from the EU-LFS for OECD and accession countries taking part in this survey and the national Labour Force Survey for the United Kingdom. The recent graduate cohorts have been restricted to adults who were 15-34 years old at the time of graduation.

For more information see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics (OECD, 2018[15]) and Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes (OECD, 2023[16]).

For information on the sources, see Indicator A1.

Data on subnational regions for selected indicators are available in the OECD Regional Statistics Database (OECD, 2023[13]).


[10] Bäckman, O. and A. Nilsson (2016), “Long-term consequences of being not in employment, education or training as a young adult. Stability and change in three Swedish birth cohorts”, European Societies, Vol. 18/2, pp. 136-157,

[9] Basta, M. et al. (2019), “NEET status among young Greeks: Association with mental health and substance use”, Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 253, pp. 210-217,

[12] Bauer, W. and M. Gessler (2017), “Dual vocational education and training systems in Europe: Lessons learned from Austria, Germany and Switzerland”, in Vocational Education and Training in Sub-Saharan Africa: Current Situation and Development, W. Bertelsmann Verlag,

[4] Choi, Y. (2018), “Student Employment and Persistence: Evidence of Effect Heterogeneity of Student Employment on College Dropout”, Research in Higher Education, Vol. 59/1, pp. 88-107,

[2] Helbling, L. and S. Sacchi (2014), “Scarring effects of early unemployment among young workers with vocational credentials in Switzerland”, Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, Vol. 6/12,

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[8] Möller, J. and M. Umkehrer (2014), “Are there long-term earnings scars from youth unemployment in Germany?”, ZEW Discussion Papers, No. 14-089, Centre for European Economic Research,

[3] OECD (2023), Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[11] OECD (2023), Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[16] OECD (2023), Education at a Glance 2023 Sources, Methodologies and Technical Notes, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[13] OECD (2023), OECD Regional Database - Education,

[14] OECD (2022), Education at a Glance 2022: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[15] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[1] Ralston, K. et al. (2021), “Economic inactivity, not in employment, education or training (NEET) and scarring: The importance of NEET as a marker of long-term disadvantage:”, Work, Employment and Society, Vol. 36/1, pp. 59-79,

[7] UIS/GEMR (2022), Setting Commitments: National SDG4 Benchmarks to Transform Education,

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