Education and employment

Young people’s experiences of education, training and employment provide an important context for understanding their health outcomes, both now and in the future.

In England 29.4% of 18 year olds started university in 2019


In 2020, in the months following the start of the pandemic, there was a large fall in employment levels for young people (aged 16-24). This was followed by a rise in unemployment. Overall, by July 2021, the number of young people in employment had fallen by a quarter of a million compared to the early months of 2020; a 6% fall. Youth unemployment rates have now started to settle again, returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, more young people have become economically inactive. The number of people aged 18-24 claiming unemployment related benefits more than doubled from March to May 2020, at the start of the pandemic. Rates are still higher than they were pre-pandemic (House of Commons Library, 2021). Chart 10.5 shows the long term trend for youth unemployment among 18-25 year olds, including the impact of the pandemic.

The pandemic resulted in a rise in youth unemployment

Comparisons with other age groups (Chart 10.6) demonstrate that 16-24 year olds were disproportionately affected by unemployment throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

16-24 year olds were disproportionally affected by unemployment throughout the Covid-19 pandemic

However it is worth noting that the UK has one of the highest rates of youth employment across Europe (Chart 10.7).

The UK has some of the highest youth employment rates across Europe

Young people age 16-24 are 4X more likely to be on zero hours contracts than other agesFor those young people who are in employment, there is a concern that some may be disadvantaged by working practices such as lower rates of the minimum wage and zero hour contracts. In 2021, 9.1% of young people aged 16-24 who were in employment were on a zero hours contract. This is more than four times the rate of employed people aged 25-65 (Office for National Statistics, 2021).

Chart 10.8 portrays the percentage of 16-24 year olds who are formally coded as being not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the UK over the last two decades. The rate of being NEET among this age group has slowly been decreasing since 2012 and stood at 10.6 in 2021.


There has been a general downwards trend in 16-24 year olds who are NEET since 2012

All data correct as of 1st November 2021