Sweden should promote quality practical training to help young people into work


7/12/2016 - Sweden should reduce upper secondary dropout rates and promote apprenticeships to lower the share of people under 30 who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs), according to a new OECD report.


Investing in Youth - Sweden shows that 177 000 young people – nearly 10% of all 15-29 year olds – were not in employment, education or training (NEETs) in 2015, and half of them were not even looking for work. While this is below the OECD average of 15%, too many young Swedes remain NEETs for a long time: around one-quarter of all youth are NEET for two years or more between the ages of 16 and 30.


Young people without upper secondary education are five times more likely to be NEET than those with tertiary education – one of the highest gaps across the OECD. They account for a third of all NEETs. While nearly all young people enrol in upper secondary education – a great strength of the Swedish school system – 18% of all 25-34 year olds end up without an upper secondary degree, slightly above the OECD average of 17% and behind the best performing countries such as Korea (2%) but also Finland (10%).


Dropout rates are particularly high in vocational education and training (VET) programmes, which also suffer from low status and declining student interest. Largely school-based with a strong focus on general subjects, they may be ill-suited to appeal to practically-minded or school-tired youth. The 2011 upper secondary school reform introduced an apprenticeship track to increase the practical content of VET programmes. Interest in the apprenticeship track remains weak, however, and since programme structures and contents can differ across locations, employers and students may find it difficult to evaluate the skills and qualifications acquired.


Sweden was one of the first countries to implement a “Youth Guarantee” that promises all unemployed young people an activity to help them return to school or work. In recent years, the country introduced or further expanded programmes aimed at young people to achieve this goal. The 2007 government target of providing all young people aged 16-24 who have been registered as unemployed for 90 days or longer with an activity has not yet been met, however. The Public Employment Service (PES) does not publish which activities young people are actually engaged in under the Youth Guarantee, making it difficult to assess the effectiveness of these programmes. International experience shows that training programmes leading to formal vocational qualifications are most effective in brining young people, especially the low-skilled, into work – yet, participation in training is low. Furthermore, many participants report being engaged only partially (for less than 10 hours per week).


Besides, the PES and municipalities often insufficiently co-ordinate the programmes they offer to young NEETs. As a result, the central government has little information on the content and impact of municipal programmes, making it difficult to gauge how effective they are, and how many young people participate. The OECD welcomes recent measures by the national government aimed at improving co-operation in this area.


To help more young people into work, the OECD recommends that Sweden:


  • Further standardise the apprenticeship track in upper secondary schools across municipalities, so that training content and acquired skills are more transparent for prospective students and employers.


  • Consider introducing, as a pilot project and in addition to the existing school-based VET programmes, a shorter upper secondary VET track including work-based training from day one to appeal to school-tired youth.


  • Expand career guidance to help smooth the transition from compulsory to upper secondary school and better align student choice with labour market demands.


  • Further clarify municipal obligations to follow up on and offer counselling and programmes to young NEETs under the municipal activity responsibility scheme.


  • Continue to extend the coverage rate of the Youth Guarantee. Monitor the type, quality and targeting of the programmes as well as the number of hours per week young people spend in these programmes. Identifying the groups of young people who are less likely to participate in a programme may be necessary to understand how coverage can be increased.


  • Increase participation rates of low-skilled youth in education and training as part of the Youth Guarantee, and ensure that training is aligned with employer needs and of adequate duration.


  • Encourage PES registration among the many young people who are not currently registered at the PES, particularly among those who are not in contact with any government agency as well as those receiving sickness or disability benefits. This group is likely to face the greatest obstacles to education and employment, and could benefit from professional support.


  • Improve information exchange on municipality-run labour market programmes to prevent duplication with PES activities and avoid coverage gaps.


  • Ensure more systematic and rigorous evaluation of the impact of social and employment programmes by including evaluation requirements in funding contracts and specifying methodological minimum standards such as the use of randomised control groups.


For more information on Investing in Youth: Sweden, go to


Journalists can contact Stéphane Carcillo, (, +33 6 32 35 90 63) with enquiries.


Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.


Related Documents