More than 1 in 6 young adults in the EU were not in education or work in 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • More than one in six young adults in the European Union were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2020, Eurostat data shows.
  • Young women were more affected than men.
  • The Czech Republic and the Netherlands had the lowest NEET rates.
  • Advances in technology are driving the need for reskilling, according to the World Economic Forum.
  • The EU’s Youth Guarantee project has helped 24 million young people into work or training since 2013.

More than one in six young adults in the European Union are not in employment, education or training (NEET), new figures show.

The share of NEET young people had been falling since 2013. But 2020 saw the figures go in the other direction. “This sudden change reflects the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

an infographic showing how COVID-19 has resulted in a spike of ‘NEET’ young adults in the European Union.
COVID-19 has resulted in a spike of ‘NEET’ young adults in the European Union. Image: Eurostat

Young women disproportionately affected

In 2020, 17.6% of young adults aged 20 to 34 were classed as NEET. This is 1.2 percentage points more than in 2019, says Eurostat.

Young women are more likely to not be in education or employment.

In eight EU member states, the proportion of young female NEETs in 2020 was at least 10 percentage points higher than for young men.

The Czech Republic and the Netherlands had the lowest rate of young adults not in employment, education or training. Italy recorded the highest NEET rates for both men and women.

a chart showing employment and training levels amoung young women and men in europe
Women are worse affected than men. Image: Eurostat

Jobs – a double disruption

The Eurostat data reflects the findings of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020.

This warns of a “double disruption” to jobs from the impact of COVID-19 and advances in technology.

By 2025, the report predicts that half of all employees will need reskilling as technology adoption changes the nature of jobs and work.

COVID-related lockdowns, job losses and recession are widening this skills gap.

“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted millions of low-skilled workers,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, chief executive of online learning specialist Coursera, one of the partners in the Future of Jobs Report.

He is calling for a “coordinated reskilling effort by institutions” to help people access learning and return to the workforce. Jobs

What is the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit?

The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

The two-day virtual event, being held on 1-2 June 2021, will address the most critical areas of debate, articulate pathways for action, and mobilize the most influential leaders and organizations to work together to accelerate progress.

The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

Helping Europe’s youth

The European Union supports a range of initiatives to reduce youth unemployment and help young people into work or training.

These include the Youth Guarantee, which has helped 24 million young people since it was introduced in 2013 and has been reinforced since the pandemic.

The Guarantee is a commitment by all EU member states that young people under the age of 30 receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education or an apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.

In July 2020, the European Commission also strengthened its European Alliance for Apprenticeships, which aims to increase the quality, supply and overall image of apprenticeships across Europe.

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