A NEET or neet is a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training“. The acronym NEET was first used in the United Kingdom but its use has spread to other countries and regions including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the classification comprises people aged between 16 and 24 (some 16 and 17 year-olds are still of compulsory school age); the subgroup of NEETs aged 16–18 is frequently of particular focus. In Japan, the classification comprises people aged between 15 and 34 who are not employed, not engaged in housework, not enrolled in school or work-related training, and not seeking work.
NEET is to be distinguished from the newly coined NLFET rate used in the 2013 report on Global Employment Trends for Youth by the International Labour Organization. NLFET stands for “neither in the labour force nor in education or training”. It is similar to NEET but it excludes the unemployed youth (who are part of the labour force).
Knowledge of the word spread after it was used in a 1999 report by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU). Before this, the phrase “status zero” (or “Status Zer0”), which had an identical meaning, was used. Andy Furlong writes that the use of the term NEET became popular partly because of the negative connotations of having “no status”. The classification is specifically redefined in other local government papers, such as “respondents who were out of work or looking for a job, looking after children or family members, on unpaid holiday or traveling, sick or disabled, doing voluntary work or engaged in another unspecified activity”; the acronym, however, has no agreed definition with respect to measurement, particularly in relation to defining economic inactivity. Karen Robson writes that the classification has “virtually usurped discussions of “youth unemployment” in the UK literature”. Scott Yates and Malcolm Payne say that initially there was a “holistic focus” on the NEET group by policy-makers which looked at the problems young people went through, but this changed as the NEET status became framed in negative terms—”as reflective of a raft of risks, problems and negative orientations on the part of young people”. NEET figures for England are published by the Department for Education (DfE). The methodology used in calculating the number of NEETs aged 16–18 is different from that used for those aged 16–24. The first relies on a range of sources, the second on the Labour Force Survey.
A 2007 report commissioned by the Prince’s Trust said almost a fifth of people aged 16–24 in England, Scotland, and Wales were NEETs; the proportion was lowest in Northern Ireland (13.8 percent). The second-quarter figures for 2011 showed that 979,000 people in England between 16 and 24 were NEETs, accounting for 16.2 percent in that age group. Between 1995 and 2008, the proportion of NEETs aged 16–18 in England remained fairly stable at around 8–11 percent. The Guardian reported in 2011 that, since 2003, there has been a 15.6 percent decrease in people aged 16–18 in employment, but a 6.8 percent increase in those in education and training. NEET figures tend to peak in the third quarter, when school and university courses are ending.
There is some stigma attached to the term NEET. Simon Cox of BBC News said the word is “the latest buzzword for teenage drop-outs”. He says “Neets are 20 times more likely to commit a crime and 22 times more likely to be a teenage mum”, and that Barking and Dagenham has been called the country’s “Neet capital”. David Smith of The Times calls them “the yobs hanging around off-licences late into the night”. According to Colin Webster, NEETs commit disproportionately large amounts of crime. Children with high levels of truancy and exclusions at school are likely to become NEETs.
Several schemes and ideas have been developed to reduce the number of NEETs. One of the main goals of the Connexions service, first piloted in 2001, is to reduce the number of NEETs. Most local authorities have made a local area agreement to this end. As part of the 2004 Spending Review, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) had a public service agreement to reduce the proportion of NEETs from 9.6 percent in 2004 to 7.6 percent in 2010. Introduced in 2004–2005 the UK-wide Education Maintenance Allowance offers a means-tested weekly payment of up to £30 to young people continuing education past secondary school. In 2007 the government implemented a “September guarantee” that guaranteed all 16-year-old school leavers a suitable learning place in September, extended to 17-year-olds the following year. The “Young Person’s Guarantee” was announced in the 2009 budget, offering a guaranteed job, training, or work experience to 18- to 24-year-olds who have been on Jobseeker’s Allowance for six months; it went live on 25 January 2010. It was announced in the 2010 budget that the scheme would end in March 2012, an extension of one year. The Education and Skills Act 2008, which was granted royal assent in 2008, will increase the school leaving age in England to 17 in 2013, and to 18 in 2015; the Act gives the National Assembly for Wales the option to raise the leaving age in that country. A number of further education colleges seek to enrol NEETs. For example, it was reported in 2005 that a course for NEETs at Bournemouth and Poole College had offered various sign-on incentives, and completion bonuses of a free iPod and £100 in cash.