Youth Unemployment

Key Point

In 2015, close to one in five young people (19.7%) aged 20-24 years in Ireland were ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’ (abbreviated as ‘NEET’).

Ireland’s NEETs

In 2015 Ireland had the fifth highest share of young people categorised as NEET in the EU, at 19.7%. Higher shares of NEETs were found in Italy (31.1%), Greece (26.1%), Spain and Cyprus (both 22.2%).

The NEET rate increased in Ireland by 7.8 percentage points between 2006 and 2015. This is the fifth highest increase after Italy (9.5pp), Greece (9.3pp), Spain (9.0pp) and Cyprus (8.5pp). The lowest NEET rates in 2015 were found in the Netherlands (7.2%) and Luxembourg (8.8%).

Comparing Ireland’s NEET rate with the EU15 average shows the large gap which developed from 2008, when Ireland’s NEET rate reached 18.2%, and exceeded the EU15 average of 15.2%. The ratio increased from 120% in 2008 to 148% in 2011, when the rate peaked in Ireland at 26.5%. See figure 1.

Figure 1
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(Source: Eurostat) [*NEET – Not in Employment, Education or Training]

The NEET rate in the EU15 peaked at 18.5% in 2012. Ireland’s rate peaked in 2011 at 26.5% and has declined at a faster rate (-26%) than the EU15 average (-8%) up to 2015. In 2015, Ireland’s NEET rate was 116% of the EU15 average. This is 66% higher than the 11.9% rate recorded in 2006.

Youth Unemployment Ratio

The Youth Unemployment Ratio is the number of unemployed young people as a proportion of the total population of that age group. This is less than the figure for NEETs, as not all NEETs are classified as being available for work.

Ireland’s youth unemployment ratio was 11.7% among those aged 20-24 years in 2015; equal to the EU average. This is 39% above the UK’s ratio of 8.4%, however. Ireland’s ratio was one third lower than the EU28 average in 2007, but this increased significantly, and in 2010 was 43% above the EU28 average. See table 1.

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The latest QNHS1 shows that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.3% in July (183,100). The number in employment in Q2 2016 exceeded 2 million for the first time since 2008. Youth unemployment among those aged 20-24 years stood at 25,500 in Q2 2016. This figure has reduced by 12% on an annual basis (-3,400).  As of July 2016, there were 60,012 people on labour activation programmes (10.8% annual decrease); 3,390 of which were on JobBridge. JobBridge intern numbers have decreased by 32 per cent (1,579) in the year to July.

To help address this issue, the EU proposed a Youth Guarantee scheme. This was introduced in Ireland in January 2014. Under the scheme, all young people up to the age of 25 are offered a good quality job, further education or training within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. Over 19,000 offers under the scheme were taken up by young people in 2015.

While close to one in five young people aged 20-24 years in Ireland are NEET, there is an equally pressing issue to support young NEETs in the 25-29 year age group, with 21.4% categorised as NEET in 2015.



1 Quarterly National Household Survey – Q2 2016

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