University of Bath

Vulnerable Youth Transitions: NEET Status and Precarious Young Workers in the North and South

This IPR Research seminar seeks to examine the current relevance of a focus on NEET in two very different contexts: the UK and Peru.

14 Nov 20182.15pm
14 Nov 20183.45pm

Vulnerable youth transitions: NEET status and precarious young workers in the North and South

The focus on NEET (young people not in education, employment or training), which emerged in the 1990s as a residual category after changes in the UK benefit system, has now become a global standard to address youth labour market vulnerability. This joint seminar seeks to examine the current relevance of a focus on NEET in two very different contexts: the UK and Peru. Evidence from studies conducted in these two countries suggests the importance of refining our understanding and the focus of policies to better capture the needs of specific groups, such as the economically inactive (UK) and precarious workers (Peru).

‘Young, NEET and Forgotten? An insight into the lives of young people in England who are NEET and economically inactive’

Sue Maguire, Honorary Professor, Institute for Policy Research, Bath, UK

Despite declining levels of youth unemployment the NEET agenda persists. While the term ‘NEET’ has been extended in recent years to cover a much wider age cohort of young people across the UK (and internationally), this has largely failed to be accompanied by research to improve our understanding about the wider group, and crucially, an expansion in policy responses to meet their needs.

In the UK, the division within the NEET group between young people who are defined economically active (EA), i.e. unemployed, and economically inactive (EI) i.e. due to caring responsibilities or illness, triggers significant differences in the type of welfare entitlement and associated levels of support received. Drawing on recent research findings about young women who were NEET and economically inactive (EI), the paper shows that there is a passive acceptance that many young women (as well as increasing numbers of young men) become NEET and EI and remain so for long periods of time, despite the scarring effects this will have on their lives. The study also highlighted that young women find themselves isolated and disconnected, despite their abilities and aspirations.

In conclusion, the findings would indicate that the wider categorisation of NEET status and, associated policy responses, are failing to recognise, connect with, or meet the needs of many young people they are seeking to represent.

Fractured lives: youth labour market vulnerability in Perú

Maria Balarin, Principal Researcher, Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), Perú and Visiting Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Bath, UK

A focus on NEET has now become a global standard to address young people’s labour market vulnerability. In developing countries informal labour markets and employment precarity – casualization, low quality jobs and high levels of churn – tend to be a historical norm, rather than a more recent phenomenon associated with changes in the nature of work and employment relations. Conceptualizing and identifying the precarious in different contexts is therefore key to the development of adequate policy responses.

The paper reports on a mixed-methods study of NEETs and precarious young workers in Peru which proposes a contextually nuanced definition of labour precarity, and provides an estimation of the numbers of precarious urban workers as compared to those who qualify as NEET. Using qualitative life history methods, the study then reconstructs the trajectories of a group of young people that fall within the broader category of ‘urban vulnerable’ – which includes both NEETs and precarious workers – in order to identify the factors that have led to their current status. The impact of identified factors and shocks is then tested using cross-section and panel survey data, and explanations are developed with the help of the qualitative data.

Findings from the study have important implications for the analysis of youth labour market vulnerability in the Global South, as well as for policies that seek to address this problem. Current responses to the problem of NEETs tend to focus on skills development and active labour market policies, but the conditions and life courses that render young people NEET or precarious workers suggest the need for more integral policy responses.