Annual statistics on young people not in education, employment or training

05 August 2014

Article by Michael Dauncey and Gareth Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Annual fall in proportions of young people who are NEET

Annual statistics recently published show that the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) has decreased amongst both males and females in both the 16-18 and 19-24 age categories.

The Welsh Government’s Statistical First Release (SFR), Participation of young people in education and the labour market (year end 2012 and 2013 (provisional)) is published annually in July and is the definitive source for estimates of NEET levels. These statistics show:

  • The proportion of 16 to 18 year olds who are NEET fell to 10.5% in 2013 from 10.8% in 2012.
  • The proportion of 19 to 24 year olds who are NEET fell to 21.2% in 2013 from 22.9% in 2012.
  • NEET rates continue to be higher amongst males then females at age 16-18, although males experienced a larger percentage point reduction in 2013.
  • NEET rates continue to be higher amongst females than males at age 19-24, although females experienced a larger percentage point reduction in 2013.

The reductions in proportions of young people not in education, employment or training bring NEET rates to their lowest for a number of years. According to the annual SFR data, proportions of both male and female 16 to 18 year olds who are NEET are at their lowest since 2006, whilst levels amongst 19 to 24 year olds are their lowest since 2008, with the exception of one year for males (2011).

Figure 1: Percentage of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training

table 1

Source: Welsh Government, Participation of young people in education and the labour market (year end 2012 and 2013 (provisional))

Figure 2: Percentage of 19-24 year olds not in education, employment or training

table 2

Source: Welsh Government, Participation of young people in education and the labour market (year end 2012 and 2013 (provisional))

A second Statistical Bulletin, Young people not in education, employment or training, is published each quarter and provides more timely, though less statistically robust, statistics, based on the Annual Population Survey (APS). The Statistical Bulletin also includes analysis by gender, age and region, which is not possible with the annual SFR data, along with some comparisons with England as well amongst all four UK nations.

The APS data also shows a reduction in NEET levels amongst both 16 to 18 year olds and 19 to 24 year olds on a rolling year basis (up to Q1 2014), compared to the equivalent period 12 months earlier.

The Welsh Government has said that reducing the numbers of young people who are NEET is a top priority and in October 2013 published its Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Implementation Plan. It also set some targets in its Tackling Poverty Action Plan published last July. These are to:

  • Reduce the proportion of 16 to 18 year olds who are NEET to 9 per cent by 2017
  • Reduce the proportion of young people aged 19 to 24 who are NEET in Wales relative to the UK as a whole by 2017

The relative rather than absolute nature of the target for 19 to 24 year olds reflects the tendency of NEET rates amongst this age group to be more influenced by wider economic conditions. The Research Service has previously undertaken some analysis tracking NEET rates against UK economic performance, based on growth in Gross Domestic Product. (See pages 26-27 of our Research Paper, Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training, September 2013)

Whereas the 19-24 NEET rate has generally fluctuated in line with changing economic climates, something that is recognised by the Welsh Government, the rate at 16-18 has remained relatively consistent in Wales as far back as the 1990s at around 10-13%. This suggests that deeper, longer-term interventions are needed for 16 to 18 year olds, as trends are more stubborn than simply what is happening to the economy and the labour market.

The relative emphasis being placed on 16 to 18 year olds and 19 to 24 year olds respectively warrants some discussion. The Welsh Government has responded to previous conclusions, notably an Enterprise and Learning Committee Inquiry in 2010, that support needed to be targeted more widely to include 19 to 24 year olds rather than predominantly 16-18 year olds, particularly in light of the recession and economic downturn. It undertook structural change to develop a Youth Engagement and Employment Division within the Department for Education and Skills, developed a new Action Plan for 2011-2015 with a broader 16-24 approach, and put in place policies and initiatives such as Jobs Growth Wales.

In its report published in July 2014, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) did not include expenditure on Jobs Growth Wales and much of the funding for Apprenticeships in its £200 million estimation of annual ‘NEET related’ spending by the Welsh Government and from the European Social Fund. The WAO said this was because such funding was targeted at moderate to high achieving young people rather than those most at risk of becoming NEET.

In moving from its 2011-2015 Action Plan, which followed the Enterprise and Learning Committee Inquiry, to the Framework, there are observations that the Welsh Government’s policies to reduce NEET rates have reverted back to focusing more on 16 to 18 year olds. The WAO noted in its report published last month that the emphasis of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework was mainly on pre-16 learners and 16 to 18 year olds, reporting that it was not clear if this will be sufficient to achieve objectives for 19 to 24 year olds.

The WAO’s overall conclusion was that ‘the Welsh Government is well placed to help reduce the numbers of 16 to 18 year olds who are NEET but less well-placed to reduce the numbers of 19 to 24 year olds who are NEET and determine if it is achieving value for money’. In the coming years, the annual and quarterly NEET statistics are sure to be closely monitored to see if this conclusion rings true and if the Welsh Government meets its 2017 targets.