New Regional Study to Inform Policies on Youth Not in Employment, Education, or Training (NEET)


NEET rates are above 40 percent for youth aged 20-24 years in East and Southern Africa. Decreasing the risk of youth, including women and girls, leaving school and their NEET status becoming permanent is a priority in all the countries studied.

Nairobi, 25 May 2022 – Youth representatives and delegates from civil society organizations, public agencies, academia, United Nations (UN) entities, and development partner organizations today joined hands to launch a new joint study on the status of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) in East and Southern Africa and deliberate on its findings towards policy proposals.

The study, undertaken by UN Women in nine countries in the region, focused on youth in the 15-24 years age bracket. The countries studied were Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda.

One in five young people globally currently have NEET status. This means that they are not gaining experience in the labor market, receiving an income from work, or enhancing their education and skills.

In East and Southern Africa, NEET rates are above 40 percent for youth aged 20-24 years.

“The highest NEET rate for young women in the 20-24 years age group is in Ethiopia where 68 percent of young women have NEET status,” said Zebib Kavuma, UN Women Deputy Regional Director during the launch.

This is followed by South Africa (56 percent), and more than 50 percent each in Namibia, Malawi, and Kenya.

“This means that the full potential of these young people is not being realized although many may be contributing to the economy through unpaid work. This is particularly true for young women in the region,” said Maria Payet, Labour Statistics Specialist, International Labour Organization (ILO) Southern Africa Sub-Regional Office.

Early marriage and adolescent pregnancies, working in unpaid family farming, education enrollment, and highest level of education attained are the greatest determinants of NEET status in the region. While Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya have the highest GDP per capita of countries in this study, only Botswana and Kenya have anticipated economic growth rates that show some promise for substantial youth employment creation. Although Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa have high school completion rates, there are very few employment opportunities and less than 5 percent of youth in the 15–19-year-old bracket are employed after leaving school.

Young women in all the countries studied were found to be more likely than young men to live in extreme poverty except for Ethiopia and Malawi. Leaving school early, unpaid domestic work, taking care of family members, and fewer opportunities to take up work which may be deemed inappropriate or unsafe for young women, are some of the drivers of young women’s NEET status.

“Young women in the region are disproportionally affected by NEET status regardless of their age group and their NEET status is more likely to become a permanent state compared to young men. We therefore cannot afford to ignore the gender dimension of NEET,” said Kavuma.

The greater mobility of young men, which begins even while they are still in school, has contributed to pronounced gender employment gaps for the 20-24 years age group. However, early employment also has negative impacts on the quality and completion times of young men’s education.

Policy recommendations emanating from the study relate to reducing early marriage and adolescent motherhood, enhancing enrollment and retention in education, putting in place youth-targeted interventions and active labour market policies and raising the productivity of family agriculture. This is noteworthy as the household agricultural sector is likely to provide most new employment in Africa.

Individual studies and policy proposals for the nine countries are also set to be published.

For more information, please contact:

UN Women

Isabella Schmidt

Regional Gender Statistics Specialist

East and Southern Africa