Growing risk of social exclusion among early school leavers


05/10/2016 - Young people who leave school at 16 with low skills are facing increasing challenges in finding a job, and their chances may not improve even if the economy picks up, according to a new OECD report. 


Society at a Glance 2016
 says that about 40 million young people in OECD countries, equivalent to 15 per cent of youth aged 15 to 29, are not in education, employment or training, so-called NEETs. Two-thirds of them are not even looking for work. While up to 40% of all youth experience a period of inactivity or unemployment over a four year period, for half of them this period will last a year or more and may lead to discouragement and exclusion. 


Almost one in ten jobs held by workers under 30 were destroyed during the crisis. In Spain, Greece and Ireland, the number of employed youth halved between 2007 and 2014. Across the OECD, despite the recovery, the youth employment rate has stagnated since 2010 and today is still below pre-crisis levels.


The high number of NEETs also represents a major economic cost, estimated at between USD 360 billion and USD 605 billion, equivalent to between 0.9% and 1.5% of OECD GDP.


Young people who finished school at 16, without completing upper secondary education, make up over 30% of NEETs. Foreign-born youth are on average 1.5 times more likely to be NEET than native youth and 2-2.25 times more likely in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Norway.


“It is getting harder and harder for young people with low skills to find a job, let alone a steady job in today’s workplace,” said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. “Unless more is done to improve opportunities in education and training for everyone, there is a growing risk of an increasingly divided society.”


Fighting early school leaving is essential, says the OECD. Governments must ensure that young people obtain at least an upper-secondary qualification so they can continue in education or gain vocational skills. Despite progress, one in six 25-34 year olds in OECD countries left school before upper secondary.


Women are 1.4 times more likely to become NEET than men on average. For many of them, this is because they are looking after small children and the high cost of childcare is a major barrier to employment: in the US, Ireland, United Kingdom and New Zealand, childcare costs for a lone parent can account for between one-third and a half of net income.


Improving the quality of vocational training and working more closely with employers to create apprenticeships is also key. More countries should offer financial incentives to firms to create enough apprenticeship places, especially for the most disadvantaged youth.


The biennial Society at a Glance gives an overview of social trends and policy developments in the 35 OECD countries as well as in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.


The data and country highlights are available from


For more information, journalists should contact the OECD Media Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).



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