Calendar year 2020

NEET age 16 to 24

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  1. Corrected wording relating to 18-24 NEET rate annual change.

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Estimates from the Labour Force Survey of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) in England.

Headline facts and figures - 2020

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About these statistics

These statistics are based on quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS) data. They provide estimates of young people: not in education, employment or training (NEET) and not in education or training (NET). 

The NEET and NET rates both capture young people who are not in education or training. However, NEET also captures those young people not in employment. Employment has a larger impact on NEET rates for those post compulsory education age (18+) as many are active in the labour market.

The statistics cover 16-24 year olds in England, together with other age breakdowns within that bracket e.g. 16/17 and 18-24 year olds. Estimates are based on academic age, defined as ‘age at the start of the academic year’ i.e. age as at 31 August. They also include some breakdowns by:

  • gender
  • labour market status
  • region

These statistics should be used to see latest trends in NEET rates for 16-24 year olds. Trends are assessed by comparing the latest quarter’s data with the same period in an earlier year to account for seasonal effects.

Data is provided up to and including October to December 2020. 

As quarter four (October to December) 2020 is the latest data available and the first full quarter of the 2020/21 academic year, commentary in this release focuses mainly on this quarter. 

LFS responses are weighted to official population estimates and projections that do not currently reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The LFS is not designed to measure changes in the levels of population or long-term international migration. The Office for National Statistics is analysing the population totals used in the weighting process and may make adjustments if appropriate. Rates published from the LFS remain robust and reliable, however levels and changes in levels should be used with caution.

See 'Other NEET sources' section for further information on related statistics on:


We would welcome feedback on any aspect of this publication at

Not in education, employment or training (NEET) rates by age

Between October to December 2019 and 2020, the proportion NEET remained stable for the overall 16-24 age group, increased for the 18-24 age group but statistically significantly decreased for 16/17 year olds.

The proportion NEET varies by age:

  • since 2013, those aged 16 and 17 are required to remain in education or training (under Raising Participation Age (RPA) legislation) and therefore have a lower NEET rate of 2.9%. The 16/17 NEET rate has fallen by over two thirds compared with October to December 2005, the series peak.
  • compared with 16/17 year olds those aged 18-24, who won’t be subject to RPA, have a NEET rate over four times higher at 13.8%. Many of this group are no longer in education and are instead in the labour market. Consequently, those not in employment contribute to a higher NEET rate.

NEET rates for the older age groups increased both during and immediately after the most recent recession. During a recession, less economic activity takes place and so there are fewer jobs available and more redundancies, increasing the number NEET. Both the latest 16-24 and 18-24 NEET rates have fallen by almost a third compared with October to December 2011, the series peak following the recession.

NEET rate by age, England, October to December 2018-2020

 Academic age (age as at 31st August)Oct to Dec 2018Oct to Dec 2019Oct to Dec 202095% confidence interval for Oct to Dec 2020[1] (percentage points)Annual change from Oct-Dec 2019 to 2020 (percentage points, statistically significant changes in bold[2])
Ages 16/174.2%4.5%2.9%+/- 0.9pp-1.6pp
Ages 16-187.0%7.5%6.1%+/- 1.1pp-1.4pp
  Age 164.8%4.3%3.8%+/- 1.5pp-0.5pp
  Age 173.6%4.7%2.0%+/- 1.1pp-2.8pp
  Age 1812.5%13.1%12.6%+/- 2.7pp-0.5pp
Ages 18-2413.1%13.0%13.8%+/- 1.2pp0.8pp
Ages 19-2413.2%13.0%14.0%+/- 1.3pp1.0pp
Ages 16-2411.3%11.3%11.5%+/- 0.9pp0.3pp

[1] For sample-based data, which estimate the true population value rather than giving an exact measure, confidence intervals give an indication of how precise the estimates are. If confidence intervals are at the 95% level, like in these instances, we can be 95% sure that the true value of the population lies within the ranges specified. It should be noted that sample sizes in the Labour Force Survey are small for individual age cohorts so these estimates are subject to higher margins of error. Caution should be taken when interpreting changes over the short term, particularly for individual age cohorts. 

[2] If a comparison between two estimates is statistically significant, we can be 95% sure that the change reflects reality and is not attributable to chance.

Not in education or training (NET) rates by age

Between October to December 2019 and 2020, the proportion not in education or training (NET) decreased for all summary age groups, with a statistically significantly decrease at ages 16/17.

The proportion NET:

  • for 16/17 year olds has fallen by over three quarters since October to December 2001, the series peak.
  • for the older age group (18-24) has stayed fairly stable since the series began.
  • for the overall 16-24 age group has remained stable since the series began.

Reasons NEET (overall age 16-24)

The labour market status of young people NEET has changed over time.

Latest figures show more than half of those young people NEET are economically inactive.

The unemployment rate increased for 16-24 year olds in the years following the 2008/2009 recession, peaking in 2011. This proportion had fallen and remained broadly stable until 2020 when it increased, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in the proportion unemployed has been driven by those unemployed for 6 months or more, though short term unemployment has also increased.

Since 2014, more young people are NEET due to economic inactivity than due to being unemployed. In 2020 the proportion with main reason for inactivity being looking after family or home decreased by almost half. The main reason for inactivity being long term or temporarily sick has increased since 2011.

The following analysis uses Annual Population Survey (APS) data from 2012 to 2020.

NEET rates differ slightly using the APS and LFS (APS NEET rate in 2020 for 16-24 year olds was 11.5%, compared with an 11.7% average of all quarters in the LFS in 2020). Due to larger sample sizes in the APS we use this data when looking at specific groups in the population.

Although the proportion of the overall 16-24 population with a health condition has remained relatively stable in recent years, there is an increasing proportion of those 16-24 NEET reporting a health condition.

In 2020 those NEET were almost twice as likely to have a health problem than the overall 16-24 population (45.1% and 23.2% respectively).

Looking specifically at mental health conditions, the proportion of the 16-24 NEET population with such a condition has almost tripled from 7.7% in 2012 to 20.8% in 2020. The conditions reported include depression, bad nerves, anxiety, mental illness, or suffering from phobia, panics or other nervous disorders.

Despite the overall 16-24 NEET rate having fallen, the proportion of the 16-24 population NEET with mental health conditions has increased as shown in figure 5.

NEET rate by gender (overall age 16-24)

The 16-24 female NEET rate is at its lowest in the series, while the male NEET rate has risen to 2013 levels. In recent years the gender gap has closed however, in 2020, we see the largest gender gap since 2014 and the first time 16-24 females have notably lower NEET rates than males.

The main reason for females being NEET is different to males as shown in figure 7. In October to December 2020:

  • females are still more likely to be NEET due to looking after family/home than males (2.0% compared with 0.2% of their respective populations) however the female proportion has almost halved from the same quarter the previous year (3.7%, a statistically significant change)
  • a higher proportion of males are unemployed than females (7.2% compared with 3.6% of their respective populations)
  • overall male inactivity rate for the population is the highest in the series (6.1% of population).

The proportion of the population in short and long term unemployment have both increased, however long term unemployment has had a greater increase.

For both males (highest October to December 2020) and females (highest October to December 2019) the proportion NEET due to being long-term or temporarily sick has increased over the last 10 years.

For males the increase in NEET has been driven by both unemployment and inactivity. However, the proportion of males NEET that are inactive rather than unemployed has increased since the same quarter in 2019 (46.1% compared with 43.6%). For females the decrease in NEET has been driven by a fall in inactivity despite an increase in unemployment.

NEET rate by region (overall age 16-24)

Note: Regional estimates have larger error margins due to smaller sample sizes, resulting in wider confidence intervals of between +/-1.8 percentage points in the South East and +/-4.2 percentage points in the North East. This means caution should be taken when interpreting the figures.

There are notable differences in the NEET rates across the country as shown in Figure 8.

For 16-24 year olds in October to December 2020:

  • The North East had the highest NEET rate and has had the highest October to December rate since 2014.
  • The South East has the lowest NEET rate and has had one of the lowest October to December rates since 2015.

The only statistically significant change in the latest year was in the South West where the 16-24 NEET rate increased from 8.2% in October to December 2019 to 12.4% in the same quarter of 2020. In previous years the South West, along with the South East, has held the lowest NEET rates.

Seasonal effects

NEET rates exhibit seasonal patterns that tend to reflect the academic year: typically there are lower rates in autumn (October to December) followed by a gradual rise in spring and early summer (January to June) with a peak in late summer (July to September). 

Figure 9 shows the quarterly NEET estimates for the past ten years and demonstrates these seasonal effects.

Other NEET sources

Users should be aware that figures for young people who are NEET and NET are published in other statistics releases. The table below provides a summary of the four related releases and gives information on their content.

TitleParticipation in education, training and employmentNEET statistics annual brief Young people NEETLocal authority NEET and participation
ProducerDepartment for EducationDepartment for EducationOffice for National StatisticsDepartment for Education
StatusNational StatisticNational StatisticNational StatisticTransparency data
Age range16-1816-2416-2416-17
Age typeAcademic age[1]Academic age[1]Actual ageAcademic age[1]
Regional breakdownsNoYesNoYes
LA breakdownNoNoNoYes
Data typeMostly administrativeSurveySurveyManagement information
Frequency of publicationAnnuallyAnnuallyQuarterlyAnnually
Seasonally adjustedNoNoYesNo
When to use?[2]England NEET (and participation) figures, age 16-18England/regional NEET figures, age 16-24 (includes reasons NEET) UK NEET figures, age 16-24 (published quarterly so often most timely)LA/regional NEET (and participation) figures, age 16-17 (includes pupil characteristics) 

[1] Academic age is defined as ‘age at the start of the academic year’ i.e. age as at 31 August. Actual age is defined as ‘respondents age at the time surveyed’.

[2] Left to right indicates recommended order of preference in which the statistics should be used based on most users’ needs and robustness of the data.  

Participation in education, training and employment 

Participation in education, training and employment statistics are DfE’s (Department for Education’s) definitive statistics on participation, NEET and NET for the 16-18 age group. As these estimates are based on administrative data, they are considered the most robust available. 

DfE’s October to December NEET/NET estimates using the Labour Force Survey (usually published February/March each year) are indicative of the end of year NEET/NET figures in the Participation release (usually published June each year). Figure 10 shows how estimates from the two sources have compared since 2000.

The next Participation statistics, covering the period end 2020, are scheduled to be published in June 2021. 

Local authority NEET and participation

Age 16-17 regional and local authority NEET estimates are published annually by DfE as transparency data. This information comes from local authorities NCCIS systems (National Client Caseload Information System).

Some caution should be taken if using the NCCIS figures. This is due to the estimates being based on management information which means they are not produced to the same standards as official/National statistics. Also, the NCCIS figures include ‘not known’ activity, which results in some overestimation of NEET, as can be seen in the chart when comparing the NCCIS figures to the LFS and participation figures.

The proportion of those aged 16/17 whose activities are ‘not known’ varies at local authority/regional level and between years so particular caution should be taken when making geographic and/or time-series comparisons.

Young People NEET (ONS)

Users should also be aware of the ONS (Office for National Statistics) release 'Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), UK’.

Whilst they are based on the same quarterly LFS data, the NEET and NET figures in the DfE release differ from those in the ONS release due to coverage and methodological differences as shown in the “Other NEET sources” table above.

The headline ONS figures are seasonally adjusted whilst the DfE figures are not and this accounts for most of the differences. The respective use of academic age (DfE) and actual age (ONS) has little impact at overall age 16-24 (but is more notable at the younger 16/17 age group). Whilst the ONS and DfE figures are based on UK and England respectively, this only accounts for a small degree of variation[3] as the UK figures are primarily driven by England. 

[3]The ONS seasonally adjusted 16-24 UK NEET figure for October to December 2020 was 11.5%, compared with the DfE (non-seasonally adjusted) 16-24 England NEET figure of 11.6% - a difference of 0.1 percentage points.

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Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about NEET age 16 to 24 statistics and data:

Post-16 statistics team

Contact name: Lucy Blyth

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Telephone: 020 7783 8300

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