The face of NEETs is female

Thursday 22 May 2014

At first glance today’s statistics showing a drop in the overall numbers of young people aged 16-24 who are NEET (not in education, employment or training), looks like good news. 

But it is not good enough.

While the overall average unemployment rate in England is about 6.8%, for those aged 16-24 the figure of those not in education or employment is almost double at 13.1%. 

And despite all of the common assumptions made about who is or is not NEET, the fact is the majority are young women.

Today’s figures show there are 428,000 young women who are neither earning nor learning.  This compares to 348,000 young men.  This represents a 0.5% drop in the numbers of young women and a 2.1% drop in the numbers of young men.  But it’s not just about today’s figures: the numbers of young women who are NEET has barely shifted in over a decade.

This makes our ‘Scarred for Life?’ Inquiry all the more urgent.   

Last week the Inquiry went to Barking, meeting young women and professionals in the Future M.O.L.D.S. Communities project and the Tomorrow’s People project.  This week the Inquiry has been to Brighton meeting staff in the YMCA and the Bridge Community Project; and Blackpool, meeting young women and staff in the Blackpool South Job Centre Plus.

Such different parts of the country but with similar stories to tell.  We heard from young women keen to work or get back into education, but finding enormous barriers to both.  We listened to people working in projects who had examples of great success with individuals and facing challenges in doing as much as they would like. When we meet with young women we are asking them to complete our survey and we are encouraging them to ask others to do the same.  We are also keen for professionals and the public to give us their views.

The figures out today show the continuing and enormous scale of the problem for young people overall and young women in particular.  But statistics only tell part of the story.  It is by hearing the views of young women that we can fully understand the devastating impact that being out of employment and education has on their lives and begin to understand what can be done to make a difference.

Next stop: Manchester