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NEET Youth: A Population Profile

Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET)
Youth in NEET situations tend to have lower literacy skills, lower education levels and lack work experience.

According to the most recent data available, 13.6% of Canadian youth, aged 15 to 29, are not in employment, education or training. It’s called the NEET rate – a measure policymakers and others invested in a thriving young workforce monitor as an indicator of economic and social well-being. It is even included as an indicator in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals under SDG #8.

Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET)

Within the NEET population, there are three subgroups, each having a different relationship with education and employment.

  • Ages 15 -19: Most of this group is not working and should be in school by law.

  • Ages 20 – 24: This age tends to be in a time of transition from school into the workforce. Young people without a high school diploma are over-represented.

  • Ages 25 – 29: This population should typically be in the workforce. Women whose education level is a high school diploma or lower are over-represented.

Overall, youth in NEET situations tend to have lower literacy skills, lower education levels and lack work experience. The majority are in the upper age ranges of the NEET population. They are also more likely to have children. Of course, there are there no definitive markers for NEET youth. This population includes Canadians from all walks of life.

Contributing Factors

There are many reasons that can lead to youth finding themselves in a NEET situation, including inter-generational cycles of poverty, physical or mental health concerns, and barriers to education like the high cost of post-secondary schooling. Some are unable to find paid work despite actively looking. Geography can play a role too as job distribution is not equal across the country.

What They’re Doing Instead

While some youth in NEET situations do not want to go to school or work or are discouraged from both, others are looking for paid work, caring for children, unable to work due to illness or disability, or involved in other activities or responsibilities that keep them out of education and employment.

For many, these are temporary conditions as is their time in the NEET population. However, some young Canadians find themselves in NEET situations for a long stretch of time and it could be a lifelong challenge.

A Vulnerable Population

NEET youth can struggle to improve their situation because they are not gaining new skills through education or experience through work, placing them at higher risk for:

  • earning low income

  • early parenthood

  • long-term unemployment

  • poor housing conditions

  • social exclusion

Health Challenges

The Profile of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) Canada, 2015 to 2017 report by Statistics Canada found higher rates of mental and physical health challenges among the NEET youth compared to their non-NEET peers, including:

  • poor mental health

  • seriously contemplating suicide

  • lower reports of good physical health

Unprecedented Impact

Like most of life, the COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the NEET rate. In April 2020, it skyrocketed to 24%, up from 12% just two months prior which was aligned with historical trends. This was the highest rate seen in 20 years.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the NEET Indicator report, also by Statistics Canada, noted “For the older age groups (aged 20 to 24 and 25 to 29), the increase in NEET rates was mostly because of a decrease in employment. For the youngest age group (aged 15 to 19), the increase was primarily because youth reported not attending school, which is likely due to school closures and the switch to online learning.”

The rate has since returned to within typical historical levels.

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