Number of vulnerable youth in Limburg high and rising

A study by the Maastricht University Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) shows that Limburg has a relatively large number of young people who are neither employed nor in education or training. Moreover, this number is growing, which goes against the national trend. Around half of this group is considered vulnerable and unable to make the transition from school to work.

The ROA study was done under the umbrella of the 4Limburg programme. This programme, in close collaboration with UM, the Province of Limburg and partners such as municipalities, the government employment agency UWV and the business community, aims to increase labour participation in Limburg and enhance the vitality of the region.

If Limburg is to continue to prosper, it is crucial that people develop the right tools early on and do not become dependent on benefits from a young age. Researchers and policymakers have long measured young people’s labour market opportunities by means of youth unemployment percentages. However, such percentages exclude young people who are not looking for work. This new study looked at young people known as NEETs, i.e. those who are ‘not in employment, education or training’. NEET status is a strong predictor of later socioeconomic marginalisation, criminal behaviour, poor health, undesired pregnancies and long-term economic inactivity.

Trends, spread and interpretation
Limburg is home to around 20,000 NEETs, proportionally higher than the national average. Moreover, the number of NEETs in Limburg has increased since the end of the economic crisis, bucking the national trend. Almost half of Limburg’s NEETs (42%, or approximately 8,820 young people) are long-term unemployed. The most problematic NEETs in Limburg are mainly clustered in municipalities in the eastern mining region: Kerkrade (10%) and Heerlen (9%) are provincial outliers, but Brunssum, too, has relatively many long-term NEETs. The figures are somewhat lower in cities like Maastricht, Venlo and Weert.

A much smaller share of Limburg’s NEETs (8%) are sidelined only for a brief period, during the turbulent school-to-work transition. A quarter of all Limburg NEETs have a migration background. Of these, 64% are of Western and 33% of non-Western origin. Little is known about this group – they could be seasonal workers, refugees or the partners of students – but many of them are only short-term NEETs.

Heterogeneous group
People are NEET when they are young, unemployed and not following a training or education. The group of NEETs therefore also includes backpackers who are taking a gap year, young people who are briefly unemployed while transitioning from school to work, starting entrepreneurs or young parents who choose to leave the labour market temporarily. Thus, not all young people who fall under this definition are considered problematic or vulnerable, but reducing the number of NEETs tends to be an important policy line for many governments.

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