Extending the age range of NEETs (people who are not in Employment, Education or Training) from the current 15-29 years to include all working ages from 15-64 years, will give social policy makers a better opportunity to deliver the right support and interventions to the right age groups.

Research shows that people who are not in employment, education or training are not limited to 15-29 year olds. There are many reasons why other people of working age might also be NEET. For example, someone’s physical or mental disability can prevent them from either working or enrolling in any form of training, parents or guardians may have temporarily left work to raise children, and others may be experiencing long-term unemployment or disengagement with education and training due to other social factors. Yet, Australian and international policy development for NEETs continues to focus on young people.

Associate Professor Francis Mitrou from the University of Western Australia explains,

“Standard NEETs reporting and policy development, has traditionally focussed on young people aged 15–29 years. However, this misses out on information concerning 80% of the working age NEET population in Australia.

We propose a three-category classification that divides the NEET population into those aged 15–29 years, 30–44 years, and 45–64 years, so that NEET policy can be targeted to the specific requirements of each age-group. These recommendations may also have implications for international NEETs reporting.”

By linking and analysing data from the Department of Social Services (DSS) with Census Data, it is now known that 45% of working age people in receipt of income support from the Australian government are NEETs. They are more likely to be older people, have low levels of education, be living with a disability, or to be Indigenous.

NEETs are a more diverse population than previously assumed. But, now that NEETs have been more broadly defined to include older working age people, this three-category proposal offers an evidence based solution to support Australian, and even international, policy makers with these ongoing social and fiscal challenges, whilst also giving people who are not in employment, education or training the appropriate help and support for their circumstances.

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Associate Professor Francis Mitrou, Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia