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A NEET Indicator for Post-2015? Let’s be More Precise By Enrique Pieck

By Enrique Pieck, Academic Researcher, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México, Mexico.

When trying to ensure an effective youth transition to the labor market, it is important to consider the diversity of youth and to define precisely what it is understood by labor market and educational enrollment.

Not in education

When considering to adopt an indicator for NEETs (those not in education, training or employment), we are obliged to reflect upon the diversity behind each term and to disaggregate by sex, age and education level. For example, in Mexico women are the majority within NEET, they are often devoted to housework and that does not show in statistics. Also, when assessing youth that are not studying, age and education level are crucial because it is different to talk about youth that have finished university or youth that have only finished basic or secondary education. Perhaps young people have abandoned school but are enrolled in short training courses. All this leads us to widen the scope of what we consider as ‘not in education’ or ‘not in employment’.

What are we really referring to in a NEET indicator?

If a broader concept of NEET is considered then I think this indicator could be particularly useful when trying to identify problems and social inclusion policies in low-income countries. It is more feasible to find data for indicators that show the amount of young people enrolled in short non formal training programs than to find indicators that show youngsters involved in the informal sector. These indicators could be very useful in order to reflect on how to deal with problems related to how adolescents make the transition from non-formal training courses to the labor market, and also on how to improve work competencies provided by training institutions. However, in low income countries where there are larger proportions of youth not enrolled in the formal education systems and engaged in the informal economy, a broader notion of NEET is needed.

Enrique Pieck, Academic Researcher, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México, Mexico. Email:

On 14th February 2014, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released a draft report for public consultation on proposed indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This consultation has now closed.

This blog was one of the commentaries received from NORRAG members. 


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1 Response

  1. Mike

    [Not to be confused with Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. Although, on close examination, some parallels appear.]

    The NEET notion seems of some value within a particular country in terms of:
    • Regional differences (e.g. “the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West have the highest proportion of 16-24 year olds who are NEET” – Mirza-Davies); and
    • Changes over time (There were ??? million NEETs [??? % of that age group] in the UK in the ??? quarter of ??? compared with 1.04 million [14.4%] in the fourth quarter of 2013),
    assuming robust data collection and unchanged definitions. In such circumstances, the NEET notion may be a focus for effective action although, of course, as with all statistical constructs, it is politically owned and subject to propagandist manipulation.

    The NEET notion seems inadequate – even dangerous – for international comparisons: Kenneth King convincingly presents the case against and Enrique Pieck’s observation regarding Mexico women being “often devoted to housework and that does not show in statistics” is similarly compelling.

    We measure that which is easily measurable provided its measuring suits our purposes. The merits of any measure must be assessed against that yardstick. But yet, as has been pointed out (Pleck, for example), valid indicators are needed to help identify problems and focus social inclusion policies in low-income countries.

    Underlying all of NEET (and indeed NLEET) is the persistent nonsense that ‘education’ and ‘training’ somehow merge together and that non-working young people should be doing one or the other. Much as there might be a category NEPAH (those who are neither physically active nor hospital in-patients).

    Encapsulating ‘full-time formal education’ as ‘E’ excludes a vast array of activities (part-time education, open learning, extra-mural classes, reading, all sorts of interesting ICT adventures, music, drama, public speaking and debating, political parties, religious groups) that are undoubtedly enjoyable and educational and thus deserving of recognition and encouragement.

    Those ‘seeking work and eligible for unemployment benefit’ offers a readily computable official category but, of course, alters over time and realm as regulations vary.

    Similarly, being ‘in work’ covers enormous (and probably in the UK increasing) numbers of people underemployed in demeaning, lowly-paid, precarious and mindless jobs. Not NEET, not now presented statistically, but a major economic and social challenge.

    Perhaps we should try to tease out indicators that measure – as part of a determined drive to ameliorate:
    • Those who want paid work and haven’t got it;
    • Those in unsatisfying, underpaid work and want something better; and
    • Those seeking education (broadly-defined) but cannot access it.

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