NEETs: the gender gap continues

Thursday 20 November 2014

This morning we have been poring over the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing the numbers of young people who are not in education, employment or training.  There's some good news, some bad news and some very, very bad news.

The good news is that overall, the number of young people NEET aged 18-24 stands at 830,000 which is a reduction of 113,000 since the same time last year.  The bad news is it represents an increase since the last quarter of 87,000.

And the very, very bad news is that the numbers of young women NEET remains persistently high.

It is not just the total number that concerns us. Yet again, the number of young women who are NEET is significantly higher than the number of young men, and this has been the case for the past ten years.  Today’s figures show that number of young women NEET is 475,000 compared to 355,000 young men.

The number of young women NEETs is 1.4% lower than this time last year.  The number of young men who are NEET is 3.1% lower than last year.  In other words, the numbers of young men NEET has fallen at twice the rate of the female rate in percentage terms.

You will hear politicians across the political spectrum trying to make sense of these figures over the next few days.  You may hear political point scoring and claims that policies implemented across numerous administrations have been successful.

What is most likely to be missing is any recognition that the number of young women who have been NEET has been unacceptably high for over ten years. You are very unlikely to hear anyone acknowledge that the numbers of young women NEET has been considerably higher than young men for over a decade.  And I will be very surprised if anyone suggests that national or local Government will only make headway in tackling the crisis of young people’s worklessness if they first recognise that the majority of young workless in this country are women. 

But that is exactly what needs to happen.