Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Engagement in education or employment, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Engagement in education or employment. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/engagement-in-education-or-employment
Engagement in education or employment. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/engagement-in-education-or-employment
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Engagement in education or employment [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2023 Feb. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/engagement-in-education-or-employment
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Engagement in education or employment, viewed 3 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/engagement-in-education-or-employment
Get citations as an Endnote file:
On this page:
Participating in education or starting employment after concluding compulsory education helps individuals to develop abilities and skills and encourages a socially inclusive and productive society.
Not participating in either can contribute to future unemployment, lower incomes and employment insecurity (de Fontenay et al. 2020; Pech et al. 2009). Long‑term outcomes of unemployment and job loss can also include:
Young people are particularly vulnerable in making the transition from school to further education or work. Some factors that can make this transition more difficult include:
The majority of young people do manage this transition successfully. But a small proportion do not; if not in education, employment or training young people can experience social and economic disadvantage. Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) are considered disengaged from work and training.
The proportion of young people who are NEET is an indicator of how smooth the transition from education into work is for young people (NCVER: Stanwick et al. 2014).
Given the substantial potential consequences for society and individuals, young people who are NEET are a policy concern worldwide (OECD 2019).
Except for international comparisons, the data in this section largely cover the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Various restrictions and initiatives were in place in May 2020, in response to the pandemic, when data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Education and Work were collected (ABS 2020a; Storen & Corrigan 2020). These restrictions are likely to have had an impact on both the survey results and changes in engagement between 2020 and earlier years (ABS 2020a). For more information, see COVID-19 and the impact on young people.
Data on unemployment and underemployment among young people are presented in Box 2.
Data from the ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS) are used in reporting unemployment and underemployment. The survey is a component of the Monthly Population Survey, and reports information on estimates of the civilian labour force population monthly. For definitions of unemployment and underemployment, see Technical notes.
As at April 2021, the ABS LFS questionnaire had not been changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (ABS 2021a). People who received the JobKeeper Payment were expected to answer questions in a way that would continue to classify them as employed. People who received the JobSeeker Payment would be classified based on their labour market activity. In response to COVID-19, the mutual obligation requirements that people must meet to receive the JobSeeker Payment (which could include looking for work or studying) were suspended in March 2020, and have been gradually reintroduced since August 2020 (DESE 2020).
These changes may have influenced whether people were actively searching for jobs, which would impact whether they were classified as 'unemployed' or 'not in the labour force' (but they would remain 'not employed') (ABS 2021a).
Data from the ABS Survey of Education and Work (SEW), a supplement to the Labour Force Survey, are reported here. The ABS SEW is conducted annually in early May of each year (details of the impacts of COVID-19 on the ABS SEW are on the ABS website Education and Work, Australia). The ABS SEW collects information on participation in education, non-school qualifications, transition from education to work, and current labour force and demographic characteristics for Australia’s population aged 15–74 (ABS 2020b).
The ABS SEW classifies a person’s level of engagement with study and/or work into 3 categories:
The changes to the JobSeeker Payment described earlier would not affect the proportion of those considered NEET as NEET includes those who are unemployed and those not in the labour force (ABS 2020b).
Note that the data source for NEET in this section (ABS SEW) differs to that used in COVID-19 and the impact on young people, which draws on data from the ABS LFS. This means that the proportions reported for May 2020 in the 2 sections of this report differ slightly.
The Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development: Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) indicator presents the percentage of the total number of young people in the corresponding age group in selected countries who are NEET, alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. The OECD uses the same definition of NEET as the ABS, described earlier (OECD 2020).
In May 2019, 92% of young people aged 15–24 were engaged at some level in education and/or employment. This dropped by 4 percentage points in May 2020 (to 88% or 2.8 million young people).
Between May 2019 and May 2020, among all young people aged 15–24, the proportion of those who were:
Full engagement can refer to work, study or a combination. Between May 2019 and May 2020, among all young people aged 15–24, the proportion of those who were:
In May 2019, 8.4% of young people aged 15–24 were considered NEET (see Box 1). This increased by around 4 percentage points in May 2020 (to 12% or 391,000), with similar proportions of males and females (ABS 2020c; Figure 1).
Note: The calculated percentage includes people enrolled in school-level study.
Source: ABS 2020c.
Between May 2004 and May 2020, among young people aged 15–24, the proportion who were:
From May 2019 to May 2020, the proportion who were fully engaged was similar for most population groups but decreased for those from Major cities (83% to 79%) and those born in Australia (80% to 77%) (ABS 2020c). The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have played a role in these changes.
In May 2020, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 who were fully engaged varied across some population groups. It was:
The proportion of young people who were partially engaged was similar between May 2019 and May 2020.
In May 2020, the proportion of young people who were partially engaged was:
From May 2019 to May 2020, the proportion of young people who were NEET rose for those from Major cities (6.8% to 12%), those born in Australia (8.5% to 13%) and from those living in the highest socioeconomic areas (4.5% to 8.7%) (ABS 2020c).
These findings are consistent with an AIHW analysis of the Department of Social Services’ JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance recipients – monthly profile on data.gov.au (DSS 2020). This analysis showed that, from March to May 2020, there was a disproportionate increase in the number of people aged 15–69 receiving unemployment payments (JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance (other)) in Major cities compared with other remoteness areas (see Technical notes). Unemployment payment recipients more than doubled in Major cities (from 545,000 to 1.1 million, a 103% increase), with the next largest increase in Inner regional areas (from around 198,000 to 318,000, a 61% increase) (AIHW unpublished). The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have played a role in these changes. For information on young people receiving JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments and other forms of income support, see Income support for young people.
In May 2020, the proportion of young people who were considered NEET was:
Based on an analysis of annual seasonally adjusted LFS data from 1978 to 2020 for the reference month of June for each year, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15–24 in 2020 was 16% (or 329,000), an increase from 12% (or 264,000) in 2019. This was the highest rate for the reference month of June since 1997 (16% or 292,000) (Figure 4) (For definitions and explanations of labour force data see Box 1).
Between 2000 and 2020, the unemployment rate of young people was lowest in 2007 before the Global Financial Crisis, at 9.0% (or 182,000) (Figure 4). The unemployment rate for males aged 15–24 was 17% (or 172,000) in June 2020, up from 13% (or 142,000) in June 2019 (Figure 4). For females of the same age group for the same months, the rate was 16% (or 154,000) in 2020, up from 11% (or 119,000) in 2019 (Figure 4).
Note: Proportions are seasonally adjusted for June of each year.
Source: ABS 2021a.
An analysis of changes in monthly seasonally adjusted labour force statistics for young people since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 showed that the unemployment rate rose substantially from 12% in March 2020 to 16% in May 2020. The rate remained at 16% in June 2020 and peaked at 16.4% in July 2020. The rate fell in August (14%), but returned to 16% in November 2020 (representing, in part, the effect of Victoria’s increased restrictions). In April 2021, the unemployment rate was 11% (or 228,000 unemployed young people) compared with 12% in March 2020 (ABS 2021a) (see also COVID-19 and the impact on young people).
Youth who are underemployed want, and are available for, more hours of work than they currently have (for a more detailed definition, see Technical notes) (ABS 2021b). Since 1978, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 in the labour force who are underemployed (the underemployment rate) has steadily increased from 3.4% to 18% in 2019. This is true for both males and females.
In June 2020, the underemployment rate of young people was 20% (or 397,000), an increase from 18% (or 387,000) in June 2019. The underemployment rate increased for young males between 2019 and 2020 (from 15% (or 172,000) to 18% (or 188,000)) while the underemployment rate of females continued to vary between 20–21% (Figure 5).
Note: Proportions are seasonally adjusted for June each year.
An analysis of monthly seasonally adjusted labour force data since the COVID-19 pandemic began showed that the underemployment rate of young people rose substantially from March 2020 (19%) to April 2020 (24%). The rate then steadily fell, returning to pre-COVID-19 levels (March 2020) by June 2020 (20%). The underemployment rate has remained stable since (17% in April 2021) (ABS 2021a). See COVID-19 and the impact on young people for further discussion of changes in labour force statistics during COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, compared with the OECD average, the proportion of young people in Australia who were considered NEET was
These patterns were consistent for both males and females across both age groups (OECD 2020).
From 2000 to 2019, compared with the OECD average, the proportion of young people in Australia who were considered NEET was:
Source: OECD 2020.
For more information on Indigenous young people and engagement in employment or education, see:
For more information on trends in employment and engagement, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Labour statistics: concepts, sources and methods. ABS cat. no. 6102.0.55.001. ABS Website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 April 2021.
ABS 2020a. Education and work, Australia, May 2020. ABS Website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 March 2021.
ABS 2020b. Education and work, Australia methodology. ABS Website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 April 2021.
ABS 2020c. Education and work, Australia, May 2020. TableBuilder, accessed February 2021.
ABS 2021a. Labour force, Australia, April 2021. ABS Website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 25 May 2021.
ABS 2021b. Labour force, Australia, methodology. ABS Website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 25 May 2021.
Brand JE 2015. The far-reaching impact of job loss and unemployment. Annual Review of Sociology 41:359–75. Viewed 20 April 2021.
Briggs ARJ, Clark J & Hall I 2012. Building bridges: understanding student transition to university. Quality in Higher Education 18(1):3–21. Viewed 21 April 2021.
de Fontenay C, Lampe B, Nugent J & Jomini P 2020. Climbing the jobs ladder slower: young people in a weak labour market. Working paper. Canberra: Productivity Commission. Viewed 21 April 2021.
DESE (Department of Education, Skills and Employment) 2020. Mutual obligation requirements for job seekers to be gradually reintroduced from 4 August 2020. Media release, 21 July 2020. Canberra: DESE. Viewed 26 November 2020.
DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) 2020. Updates about the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Melbourne: DHHS. Viewed 20 December 2020.
DSS 2020. JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance recipients – monthly profile. Canberra: DSS. Viewed 23 May 2021.
Green F 2011. Unpacking the misery multiplier: how employability modifies the impacts of unemployment and job insecurity on life satisfaction and mental health. Journal of Health Economics 30(2):265–76. Viewed 21 April 2021.
NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research): Stanwick J, Lu T, Rittie T & Circelli M 2014. How young people are faring in the transition from school to work. Melbourne: The foundation for Young Australians. Viewed 13 July 2020.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2019. Education at a glance 2019: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed 21 April 2021.
OECD 2020. Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) (indicator). Paris: OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/72d1033a-en. Viewed 20 July 2020.
Pech J, McNevin A & Nelms L 2009. Young people with poor labour force attachment: a survey of concepts, data and previous research. Canberra: Australian Fair Pay Commission. Viewed 21 April 2021.
State Training Board of Western Australia 2013. Youth matters: a study of youth education, training, employment and unemployment in Western Australia. Perth: State Training Board of Western Australia. Viewed 21 April 2021.
Storen R & Corrigan N 2020. COVID-19: a chronology of state and territory government announcements (up until 30 June 2020). Canberra: Parliamentary Library. Viewed 21 April 2021.
The ABS LFS defines:
For detailed definitions, see ABS Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods.
Youth Allowance (Other), also referred to as Youth Allowance for job seekers, provides financial help to those aged 16–21, who are looking for work, temporarily unable to work, or undertaking approved activities. Young people aged 16–17 must be independent and living away from home in order to receive this payment. This differs to Youth Allowance for students and apprentices. For more details, see the Services Australia website.
For general technical notes relating to this report, see also Methods.
Return to Australia's youth:
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
The browser you are using to browse this website is outdated and some features may not display properly or be accessible to you. Please use a more recent browser for the best user experience.