How to formulate the challenges for an eficient building process of the solutions?

The first phase of the project involves partners in a common definition of the theoretical framework; it aims to define the field, problematize the issues to share concepts and propose ideas within the working group of the CoMWork Project.

NEET: a status difficult to define

Today, one of the priorities of the Member States and the European Union, is to face the systemic crisis and renew the social and economic model, it is the fight against unemployment/inactivity in all its structural differences. The policies pursued by the European Union, to address the challenges posed by globalization and unemployment in the labour market of the European Union, are oriented to promote employment and training, considering their implementation not as an objective in itself but as a tool to ensure adequate social inclusion of citizens. In recent years, social inclusion is at risk also, but not only, because of a persistent economic crisis that caused increasing poverty in Europe and the consequent removal/estrangement from the benchmarks and the reduction targets set in the Europe 2020 strategy.

Youth unemployment is extremely high and various factors affect the structural possibility and the personal capability of young Europeans to access rights and achieve personal and professional autonomy. In order to address this issue, intervention programs have been conceived including not only the employment component, but also the endorsement/the support of capacity to develop their potential, throughout empowerment actions.

The phenomenon of NEET fits into this context, an acronym for “Not in Education, Employment or Training” or young people who do not participate or seek any path of training, education or work.

According to statistics, the phenomenon is acute, especially in recent years, and is located mainly in the segment of the population aged between 20 and 29 years, with some exceptions. The EU Report, Social Justice Index 2014 – a project that compares 28 European countries in terms of social justice (poverty prevention, right to education, and access to the labour market, social cohesion, health and intergenerational justice) – has shown that in Italy the NEET are 32% of young people, the highest percentage in Europe.

The NEET between 15 and 29 years grew by more than 5 percentage points between 2008 and 2012, rising from 19.2% to 24.6%. The major implementation was for men (7.1 points) rather than women (3.8 points). Within this macro definition, there are different realities, training and social conditions and professions. The starting point is that the NEET represent a collection of stories, each of which is a special case.

“The NEET rate is computed as the share of young people who are not in employment, education or training of the total population of young people. In this, it differs from the youth unemployment rate, which measures the share of young people who are unemployed among the population of young people who are economically active. For this reason, while in relative terms the youth unemployment rate is higher than the NEET rate, in absolute terms the overall number of NEETs is generally higher than the overall number of young unemployed people” (Eurofound, 2016, pg. 10). This is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Conceptual differences between youth unemployment rate and NEET rate

Source: Eurofound, 2012.

It is difficult to give a uniform image.

It is difficult to give a uniform image. We might begin by saying they are young people that failed in their school or training experience, others who have completed master after master course tried to enter the world of university research but did not succeed. Some of them, having finished required education, are neither working nor attending vocational training, or work illegally and therefore are not economically “recognizable” and fall into the “category”.

Some approaches insist especially about the necessity of prevention work against becoming NEET, already in school, trying to bridge very soon training with occupational possibilities.[1]

But NEET are also new graduates, who have immediately sought occupation and failing, have lost motivation and stopped trying; and finally there are graduates who have acquired competences that proved insufficient for the demands of the job market; who fail to define a professional project.

Therefore, NEET may be unemployed or inactive, or both.

The NEET population is characterized from a great heterogeneity.

Figure 2: The heterogeneity of the NEET population

Source: Eurofound, 2012.

“It is important to highlight that the heterogeneity of the NEET population needs to be addressed when designing policies to re-engage NEETs with the labour market or with education. The different needs and characteristics of the various subgroups have to be taken into account, and the one-size-fits-all approach must be avoided. Only a tailored approach to tackling the needs of the different subgroups will effectively and successfully reintegrate NEETs” (Eurofound, 2016, pg. 25).

This heterogeneity is strictly connected with the risk factors:

Figure 3: Factors increasing the probability of becoming NEET

Source: Eurofound, 2012.

We decide to work especially about older NEET but we think it should be useful to keep in mind the concept of “temporary disconnection” adopted to describe the status of very young boys and girls to avoid the adoption of a static view on the whole NEET population.

At the same time, the definition NEET is frequently related to multiple negatives (not-not) and has to be replaced by statements pointing out NEEDS of connection instead static element of inappropriateness.

We believe that educational, social, political factors are relevant elements not only as a result of the economic crisis but also if they are very closely related. Youth unemployment and inactivity are both particularly worrisome, given their permanent effects on employability and future productivity of the people concerned. The current divergence of the youth unemployment rate is likely to fuel a difference even more pronounced, in the long run, of socio-economic fundamentals both in monetary union and in the EU.

Prolonged expulsion from the labour market or the educational system, and the intensification of the economic crisis, may result in:

  • long term marginalization;
  • early drop out of school (the rate of NEET and school dropout is positively correlated);
  • low level of education and training;
  • difficulties and low likelihood to be inserted fully and with the appropriate protections in the labour market.

Be “outside” school or the labour world can really strike at the root of a sense of belonging to the society in which you live. You are not exploited, underpaid, fired; you are just “out”.

Human Capital identifies the material resources available to a society or a person, which include knowledge, education, information, technical capabilities acquired during life, or all resources that implement the capability to perform activities of transformation and creation aimed at achieving both social and economic goals and personal or collective goals. One of the main concerns at the centre of the EU policies is the huge loss of Human Capital, which is also economically reflected in billions of Euro wasted in inadequate training systems, deficient incentives for innovation policies, inefficient economic policy measures.

In 2014, the project started based on some data. At European level, the situation of young people was alarming in many Member States; Greece and Italy have high both the number and the trends; in Bulgaria, Ireland and Spain was rather the scale of the issue that concern, while in Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia is the growing trend.

Young NEET (15-29 years) par sex in partner countries

Year 2012 (%)

Young NEET
Countries Tote Male Female
Bulgaria 24.7 23.0 26.4
Italy 23.9 21.8 26.1
Spain 22.6 23.1 22.2
Portugal 15.9 15.7 16.0

Source: Re-elaborated version of ISTAT data 2013 analysing
the 4 countries involved in CoMWork Project

In most European countries, the phenomenon involved women to greater degree (17.8 / 14.0% on average against the men) with particularly large gaps in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Within the statistical data, it is possible to identify some recurring events:

  • high presence of women;
  • high presence of inactive:
  • high proportion of subjects with no work experience;
  • high proportion of young people with a high degree;
  • high presence of those discouraged in finding a job.

In this context, the Europe 2020 Strategy underlines the binomial youth-competences as a load-bearing axis to help exit from the crisis. In this strategy, themes are developed such as:

  • learning competences;
  • recognition of professional qualifications;
  • European classification of capabilities, competences and professions (European Skills, Competences and Occupations – ESCO);
  • identification, recording and validation of competences acquired outside the formal sector of education and training;
  • European Skills Passport (eg. Europass and Youthpass) that will allow each one to record and present the lifelong acquired experiences.

One significant aim of the CoMWork project is this particular attention to the concept of competence that finally allows to break   the rigidity of definitions.

The project invites people to look at the core of their experiences. Therefore, we managed to meet people (beneficiaries) who turn to services and people (professionals) who, in those services, should be able to propose feasible and replicable paths. Both have to rediscover the sense of planning and the power of choice; facing many questions that come and should come from the status of NEET.

Addressing the causes of NEET, there is a partial view, which emphasizes the individual responsibility, especially the inability of people to acquire specific qualifications; there is therefore a focus on qualifications and guidance activities on the individuals; the contexts are not discussed and the opportunities (or lack thereof) are missing.

We need to consider more deeply the environment and the use of its potential. This can be critical when we observe professional competences: is the operator someone who circumscribes individual problems? On the other hand, can he/she challenge also the environment in which individual is present in the sense of co-responsibility for found solutions?

This combination with individual and environmental approach challenges for a more and more citizenship connection between all the actions and asks for a sustainable point of view in a large vision about individual and global development. That means we can mobilize many hidden or forgotten competences, as Freire (reference) suggests, and promote an inclusive entrepreneurship for young people during a supportive building process.







[1] In this domain, the project “NEET prevention keeping student engaged at Key Stage 4 . Top tips for senior leaders” (National Foundation for Educational Research, 2014) is very interesting and seems to work in a very similar direction of our orientation. For more details:

[2] Cfr. The data refers to the international survey OECD-PIAAC on adult competences in October 2013 by ISFOL.

[3] Beside Indian economist is important to remember the authoritative contribution of American philosopher Martha Nussbaum which borrows the capability approach by Sen integrating it with a neo-Aristotelian approach (Nussbaum, M.C., Giustizia Sociale e Dignità Umana, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2002; Nussbaum, M. C., Creare capacità. Liberarsi dalla dittatura del PIL, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2012).

[4] Sen A., Development as freedom, Paperback, August 15, 2000.

[5] Mobility presupposes transparency of professionals and educational qualifications as well as the presence of disposals that allow citizens to transfer their competences from one system to another, from one country to another (see below tools for mobility).

[6] Three types of beneficiaries and actions are identified:

1) young people in unemployment and not in possession of qualifications (budget activities, guidance, additional training and internship in companies, even abroad, and initiatives of placement);

2) unemployed young people in possession of secondary and university qualifications (training modules in the company in order to qualify them and thereby make them valuable in the job market with placement actions);

3) young people in difficulty and in danger of social exclusion (educational activities of a promotional nature like “second chance“, with strong relevance for internships and work placement paths targeted and accompanied).

[7] Today, in Italy, there is a formal legislative definition of competence. The Decree, 13 of January 16 2013, regulates the validation of non-formal and informal prior learning and competences certification; it defines competence as a proven ability to use, in situations of work, study or professional and personal development, a structured set of knowledge and skills, acquired in formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts. (In Italian: “comprovata capacità di utilizzare, in situazioni di lavoro, di studio o nello sviluppo professionale e personale, un insieme strutturato di conoscenze e di abilità acquisite nei contesti di apprendimento formale, non formale o informale”).

[8] Le Boterf G., Construire les compétences individuelles et collectives, Les Éditions d’Organisation, Paris, 2000.

[9] Cedefop, Terminology of European education and training policy. A selection of 100 key terms, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2008. A second edition was published in 2014.

[10] Among the pilot experiences for the promotion of the system and for the implementation of EQF is the project Color – Competency and learning outcomes recognition for migrants (March 2011 – April 2013) with the participation of six regions. For more details: .