Cutting school drop-out rates key to improve job prospects for disadvantaged youth - OECD report


23/01/2008 - The Netherlands has a dynamic youth labour market but helping the hard core of disadvantaged young people find jobs will require comprehensive action on a range of fronts, according to a new OECD report. 

Youth unemployment stood at nearly 8% in 2006, almost half the OECD average, according to Jobs for Youth: Netherlands. The employment rate among 15-24-year -olds was 64% in 2006, well above the OECD average of 43% (see Table A).

But many jobless youths in the Netherlands are at risk of joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed. More than one in five unemployed people aged 15-24 had been looking for work for more than a year in 2006, a proportion close to the OECD average, but much higher than in, for example, the Nordic countries. Long-term unemployment also disproportionately affects youths from immigrant families.

Speaking in advance of his first official visit to the Netherlands next week, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría emphasised the importance of education in today's society. "Young people need a high-quality education to succeed in an increasingly globalised workplace. Governments must invest in and improve their education systems at every level to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential."

The report says that one of the main problems in the school-to-work transition in the Netherlands is that many young people leave school too early. In 2005, almost 12% of Dutch youths left school before completing upper secondary education, regarded as the minimum qualification to get a job in today's labour market. The Dutch drop-out rate, though close to the OECD average, exceeds that of most neighbouring European countries and, unlike most of these countries, the number of those dropping-out has not fallen significantly over the past decade.

The Dutch government aims to cut the numbers of early school leavers by half over the next five years through such measures as increased investment in vocational training. To accompany such polices the OECD report recommends further action specifically targeted at helping youths from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds find work. Among the recommendations are the following:

  • Ensure that early childcare services reach children in low-income and immigrant families, and that sustained intervention is targeted at low achievers and slow learners.
  • Help prepare students from vocational courses enter tertiary education. A greater focus on the core topics of mathematics, science and reading in vocational or pre-vocational secondary education and more investment to improve the educational standards of upper secondary vocational schools (MBO) would help reduce drop-out rates. This would make it easier for students from vocational education to attend short-cycle tertiary degrees or the most advanced MBO programmes.
  • Set up rigorous evaluations of youth training and employment programmes at the municipal level. This would help improve understanding of what works in local projects before they are implemented in other towns and cities.
  • Develop more radical measures to help the hardest-to-place young people. This could include residential courses with a focus on remedial education and work experience with adult mentoring.

Jobs for Youth: Netherlands (Des emplois pour les jeunes : Pays-Bas), is the latest in a series of OECD reports on youth employment policies which now covers sixteen countries.  Journalists can obtain a copy from the OECD's Media Division (tel: + 331 451249700). The report can be purchased in paper or electronic form through the OECD's Online Bookshop. Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the online version via SourceOECD.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Anne Sonnet or Vincent Vandenberghe of the OECD's Employment Analysis and Policy Division.


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