OECD Report: 35 Million Young People Not in School or Working


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published a new report on NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training), revealing discouraging data showing a prevalent literacy and math gap and a disconnect between what school education provides and what today’s marketplace demands.

According to the OECD report, 35 million people ages 16 to 29 in OECD countries are neither in school nor employed at the moment. The report, compiled with survey data from 22 OECD countries reveals that the percentage of American youth with poor literacy and math skills is above the OECD average. The US has the highest share of young people with poor math skills and is near the top — fourth place — for low literacy among its youth. Overall, one in six young Americans is neither in education nor in employment.

“The transition from school to work has never been particularly easy; but for millions of young people in OECD countries, it has become nearly impossible,” it is mentioned in the OECD report.

One of the countries with the most prevalent contrast between employed youth and youth without a job is the United Kingdom. The study reveals that out of 22 countries surveyed, the UK has the widest literacy gap. A BBC presentation of the UK-related statistics in the OECD report shows that the UK has a 12.6% literacy gap, which is double the OECD average of 6.5%. For South Korea the literacy gap between employed and unemployed youth is 0.4% and Japan, the lowest among the OECD countries, comes in at 0.03%.

In terms of problem-solving skills the gap between employed and out-of-work youth was 9.6%. According to BBC sources, the British Department of Education has a “relentless focus on standards” that’s boosting England’s youth skills.

The OECD report warns that the problem is extensive:

“One in four NEETs has been unemployed for more than six months and faces risks of skills erosion.Amongst the NEETs, a relatively high share (56 per cent) is inactive and not looking for a job.

For OECD, the solution lies in having countries invest more rigorously in early childhood education and ensuring that young people finish school with at least basic math and literacy competency. The report also suggests focusing on how to reengage disconnected youth and how to make sure youth is adequately prepared for employment through training and internship programs.

The report also emphasizes that having young people neither at schools nor in jobs is a “squandered investment” because their acquired skills are left unused. A disengaged youth creates a domino effect of adverse reactions for their countries. The effects range:

“[F]rom lower tax revenues, higher welfare payments, and the social instability that may arise when part of the population is out of work and demoralised.”