Are more than half a million youngsters too lazy to get a job?

14 August 2013

The word Neet has gone from being an academic acronym to the stuff of headlines. According to today's Daily Mail, "there are 640,000 Neets who have NEVER had a job". 

A Neet is someone aged 16-24 who's Not in Employment, Education or Training. In recent years, there have been many attempts to engage this potential workforce, who are the stubborn rump of the youth unemployment figures.

The Daily Mail makes the point that while there are 640,000 Neets, there are 529,000 job vacancies. The job vacancy figure originates with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but for the number of Neets the Daily Mail claims to be using a think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), as its source.

In a press release issued this week, the IPPR states: "Since 1998 the number of young people who have never had a job had almost doubled to 640,000".

This isn't the same as saying that there are 640,000 Neets who have never had a job. While the think tank makes no official mention of Neets, the Daily Mail has applied the term liberally.

The IPPR has confirmed that the 640,000 figure doesn't refer to the number of Neets. Rather it's the number of people aged 16-24 who, in the ONS's Labour Force Survey, said that they had never had a job and weren't in full-time education.

According to the Daily Mail, the 640,000 have never had a job, and aren't in education or training. The 'never had a job' part is true - but among the IPPR's 640,000 there might be part-time students and people who have spent time on work experience. Alternatively, we could be talking about someone who's just left university and is looking for their first paid employment.

This figure doesn't tell us that there are "vast numbers" of youngsters without a "basic work ethic". We simply don't have enough information on this group to know how many are currently out of work owing to their 'poor attitude'.

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