Not studying or working. A challenge for public policy?

Although labour market conditions in Poland are favourable, 750,000 young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET). In the last  IBS Policy Paper, created as part of the “Youth Employment PartnerSHIP” project, Mateusz Smoter identifies the reasons why so many Poles aged 15-29 do not work, and seeks what the government can do to change this situation.

Credits: Youth employment partnerSHIP – evaluation studies in Spain, Hungary, Italy and Poland

Why aren’t they employed and interested in improving their qualifications? The media often describe them as lazy, helpless, discouraged or demanding, ‘not even wanting to want’. This is an oversimplified picture. In fact, NEETs are a diverse group, with different reasons for not working. We demonstrate that most NEETs in Poland are economically inactive, i.e. not looking for employment – mostly owing to childcare responsibilities, family situation, poor health or disability. Some would like to return to the labour market, but are prevented from doing so by various barriers, such as difficulties in reconciling family and professional life. Most NEETs live in rural areas and small towns. Such people have worse access to attractive jobs, childcare facilities and employment offices. 50% of youth who are not studying or working have no professional experience.

Long-term unemployment at a young age may have negative consequences in the future – it lowers the chances of finding a job and earning a decent living further on in life, and increases the risk of poverty. Some NEETs could work, but instead rely on their family for support or receive social benefits.

Permanent joblessness at a young age may have also negative social and economic consequences. Increasing the level of employment is desirable for demographic reasons. Activating this group of people represents a public policy challenge, since most of them are not looking for employment, and therefore do not receive support from labour market institutions.

Most women in this group do not search for jobs because of family and childcare responsibilities, while the main reasons for men are poor health or disability. Improving access to nurseries, kindergartens and other forms of childcare, enabling part-time employment as well as removing architectural and transport barriers could facilitate entry in the labour market for those currently economically inactive who would like to work. This group may be assisted also through policies targeted at those who are unemployed or economically inactive but not registered at employment offices.

The full text of the IBS Policy Paper is available here:


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