The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures indicating a significant rise in the number of young people in the UK who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET).

From January to March 2024, the number of NEET individuals aged 16 to 24 increased to 900,000, up from 812,000 in the same period in 2023. This represents an increase to 12.6% of all young people, compared to 11.5% the previous year.

The rise in NEET young people was primarily driven by an increase among young men. The number of NEET young men grew by 99,000 over the year, reaching a total of 506,000 in January to March 2024. Additionally, the number of NEET and unemployed young men increased by 17,000 to 203,000.

Unemployment and Economic Inactivity

The data shows that of the 900,000 NEET young people, 320,000 were unemployed, marking an increase of 11,000 from the previous year. Furthermore, there were 580,000 young people who were NEET and economically inactive, which is an increase of 77,000 from the previous year.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak expressed serious concerns about the long-term effects of youth unemployment. “Being unemployed at the start of your career has a lifelong impact – and hits your earnings for the rest of your life,” he stated. Nowak emphasised the urgent need for interventions to prevent mass youth unemployment and its detrimental effects on young people’s lives.

Nowak called for immediate measures to provide young people with opportunities to develop skills and gain paid work experience. He also highlighted the need to address the prevalence of insecure, precarious work that disproportionately affects young workers. “Every job should be a good job,” he added, advocating for the end of exploitative employment practices.

Proposed Reforms

Nowak sees the upcoming general election as a critical moment to implement significant labour market reforms. He supports the New Deal for Working People, which aims to improve conditions for young workers. Key proposals include banning zero-hours contracts, ending the practice of “fire and rehire” to reduce pay and conditions, and ensuring protections against unfair dismissal from the first day of employment.

The rise in NEET figures underscores the need for robust policies to support young people in their transition from education to the workforce.