Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Completed Projects

Project Title:

Once a NEET always a NEET? Are NEETs (not in education, employment or training) a distinct group or do they change over time and does mobility make a difference?

Project Number:



Lin Hattersley (General Register Office for Scotland)
Paul Boyle (University of St Andrews)
Zhiqiang Feng (University of St Andrews)

Start Date:

Approved on 09-04-2008


‘NEET’s are defined by the Scottish Government as ‘young people aged 16 to 19 and not in education employment or training’ have been identified as a particular issue for Scotland1. It was estimated that 14% of 16 – 19 year olds are NEETs at any one time, but these young persons fall into three broad categories:

  • those with complex needs such as young people leaving care, lone parents or young carers;
  • those who are disaffected;
  • and those who are not true NEETs as they are taking a gap year or other break.

The percentage of those categorised as NEETs changes over the course of a year. The highest percentages are found in the late summer at the end of the school year. From December to May the proportions drop and remain stable2. Because the Census is held in April this will allow us to look at this phenomenon at a period in the year when most of those young people undertaking an unpaid holiday, gap year or other ‘non-NEET’ activity will not be included as many of them will still be in school or university.

There is major concern about the long term effects of being a NEET on labour market prospects. Although training is available3 (Modern Apprentices, Skillseekers, Get Ready for Work, Training for Work etc) it is not clear whether these, and other, programmes are effective4.

By looking at two groups of young people – those aged 6 – 9 in 1991 (16 -19 in 2001) and those aged 16 – 19 in 1991 (26 – 29 in 2001) we can begin to try and untangle what drives a child to become a NEET and for those who are NEETs in 1991 to examine whether they just enter education and the labour market later than their peers.

The aim of this project is to improve the categorisation of NEETs so that interventions at school and within the community may be targeted more accurately. To do this we wish to:

  • to define the NEET group(s) more accurately;
  • to explore whether those persons becoming NEETs in the 16 -19 age group remain in that category over time and whether their household circumstances in childhood (aged 6 – 9) acted as drivers;
  • and, to investigate whether mobility affects the probability of being a NEET.


  1. Scottish Executive, 2005. Employability Framework for Scotland. Report of the NEET Workstream

  2. Furlong, A. (2006) 'Not a very NEET solution'. Work, employment and society 20(3): 553-568

  3. McGregor, A., Clelland, D and Reid J. Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2006. Evaluation of measurement options for those aged 16 - 19 not in employment, education or training.

  4. Wolf Alison (2007). 'Diminished Returns, How raising the Leaving Age to 18 Will Harm Young People and the Economy'. Policy Exchange.

  5. Biggart, A., Deacon, K., Furlong, A., Given, L. and Hinds K. Scottish Executive, 2004. Findings from the Scottish School Leavers Survey: 17 in 2003. Research Findings No.4

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