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Unemployed youngsters want to work, but survey shows a third fear they never will

16 July 2013

A third of young people currently not in employment, education or training fear they will never get a job, despite the vast majority of them wanting to work or train, according to a new report released today.

  • Nine in 10 'NEETs' aspire to be in work, education or training but a third feel they have 'no chance' of ever getting a job
  • 37% rarely leave house, 40% feel they are 'not part of society', 33% have suffered depression and 15% have a mental health condition
  • 71% say with the right support they could contribute 'a lot to this country', but want help boosting their confidence and better information and advice about their options

UCU described the results of the survey of more than 1,000 young people as 'heartbreaking' and called for a new contract between society and the young. The polling, carried out by ComRes and commissioned as part of the union's Knowledge Economy campaign, paints a startling picture of the reality of life for the one million young people in England not working or training. 

While they are a highly diverse group with different needs, the overwhelming majority want to work or study (88%) and over two-thirds (71%) believe they would contribute a lot to society if they got the right support. 

'This report's findings are both disturbing and sobering, and clearly illustrate the negative consequences for the individual and society of being outside education and employment.'Professor Robin Simmons, University of HuddersfieldHowever, the survey also reveals the substantial human and social cost of sustained unemployment with more than a third (36%) believing they would never get a job. A third (33%) reported having suffered depression, while 37% said they rarely left the house and two-fifths (40%) said they did not feel they were part of society.

When asked what they considered to be the main barriers stopping them finding work or study almost half (47%) said their lack of experience held them back, a quarter (25%) said they lacked confidence, and almost more than one in four (28%) cited a lack of suitable well-paid jobs. 

Research shows the individual human tragedy is only part of the story and that a NEET will cost the Exchequer £56,000.  UCU said politicians urgently needed to listen to young people surveyed who made it clear what they felt needed to be done.

When asked what would help them find work or training opportunities, almost half (46%) said they needed help to boost their confidence and over a third (36%) wanted a motivational boost. One in three (29%) said they wanted decent advice about applying for jobs and a quarter (23%) cited clear information about opportunities as a real step forward.

Speaking in response to the report Professor Robin Simmons of the University of Huddersfield, an expert in the so-called NEET phenomenon, said: 'This report's findings are both disturbing and sobering, and clearly illustrate the negative consequences for the individual and society of being outside education and employment. The research illustrates the corrosive effect that unemployment can have on a young person's confidence, motivation, and their view of the future.

'Most NEET young people do not have low aspirationsand believe they can make a valuable contribution to society. Whilst some young unemployed people may well lack confidence this is often a result of negative labour market experiences and repeated negative experiences can cause their motivation to drop.

'A significant proportion of young people outside education and work possess high-level skills and qualifications, which suggests that youth unemployment is related as much to the availability of employment and the particular nature of jobs available to young people as it is to their individual and personal qualities and dispositions.'

UCU president, Simon Renton, said: 'This report lays bare the deep personal impact that sustained unemployment has on young people. It is truly heartbreaking to see so many people who want to contribute more to society but are left feeling their outlook is desperate and hopeless. 

'The individual human tragedy is only part of the story as young people outside education or work cost the country millions of pounds every year. We need to give our young people a commitment of proper guidance and stable, properly rewarded jobs, or educational opportunities. 

'This will mean central and local government, employers, schools, colleges and universities working together. It will cost money, but the alternative is to consign hundreds of thousands of young people to the scrapheap and leave society to pick up the both the social and economic bills caused by their inactivity.'


ComRes interviewed 1,004 UK 16-24 year olds online who are not in education, employment or training between 24 June and 4 July 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of all those aged 16-24 not in education, employment or training in the UK.

The report is available on the Knowledge Economy website

Last updated: 30 April 2019