Youth unemployment and inactivity

A comparison of school-to-work transitions and labour market outcomes in four Nordic countries

image of Youth unemployment and inactivity

Young people follow highly different trajectories from age 16 up to age 20, a time period which is often argued to be the most critical in terms of their future labour market outcomes. The focus of this report is on investigating the look of these early pathways, as well as on exploring their link to labour market outcomes in adulthood. Results are reported and compared for four Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.




Youth unemployment has for several decades been a much debated topic in both the academic and the political arena. The recent global economic crisis, in combination with profound changes in labour market structures (see e.g. Acemoglu and Autor, 2011), shifted youth unemployment to the top of the political agenda after alarming reports on surging youth unemployment rates and growing risks of young people becoming economically and socially marginalised (e.g. Scarpetta et al., 2010; ILO, 2011, 2013; Räisänen, 2013). Concomitantly, increasing attention was paid to so-called NEETs, that is, young people not in employment, education or training. Several recent reports highlight the prevalence of this phenomenon and also provide estimates of the societal costs of early school leaving and NEETs (e.g. Eurofound, 2012; Brunello and De Paola, 2014). Other studies highlight the complexity of problems often associated with being a NEET. A survey of the Prince Trust (2010) covering young people aged 16–25 reports that NEETs are significantly more likely to feel ashamed, rejected, lost, anxious, insecure, down and depressed, isolated and unloved. They are also disproportionately more likely to say that they had turned to drugs and that their life had no direction.


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