Who Are NEET Youth in Turkey


In this section, we first summarize findings from existing global literature that discuss risk factors associated with NEET status (in other words, characteristics that are associated with young people becoming NEET). Globally, qualitative and quantitative studies on the issue have identified different sets of risk factors influencing the probability of being NEET. We also analyse microdata from SILC 2017 in this section to discuss the determinants of NEET status for young people in Turkey.


Many different definitions are used globally to define NEET youth. EUROSTAT and OECD define youth as those aged between 15 to 29 whereas the World Bank defines youth covering the age of 15-24. Studies focusing on youth in Turkey also have a variety of age categories to cover youth. For instance, Susanlı (2016) examining the determinants of being NEET in Turkey using a pooled sample from Household Labour Surveys from 2004 to 2013 cover the age group of 15-24 as being youth. On the other hand, Erdogan et al. (2017) underlining the importance of gender and educational attainment as important determinants of being NEET in Turkey covers the age group of 18-29-year olds as youth in their studies.  This report covers the age group of 18-29 to define NEET and presents its analyses accordingly. The age group of 18 was selected as it is the legal age to define youth in Turkey, and this analysis focuses on youth within the scope of the EU-funded project “Enhancing Advocacy Capacities of Youth CSOs in Turkey: Guiding CSOs through Research”. For this reason, the age group 15-17 was excluded from the analysis as it is denoted as a childhood period. The upper bound of the age group is 29 to ensure broad coverage of youth in parallel with studies being carried out in Turkey and also with data sets in Europe. For further discussion on NEET defiitions, please see Annex I.

Globally, gender is an important determinant of NEET status, and in the majority of countries around the world, women are more likely to become NEET compared to men. While gender inequality in access to education has largely disappeared, there is still a persistent gender gap in labour force participation around the world, which also leads to gender disparity in NEET status. An analysis of data from OECD countries and emerging economies shows that the NEET rate difference between men and women is much smaller for 15- 19-year olds and much higher for 25-29-year olds.¹² This result is consistent with the fact that equality in access to education is achieved more widely than gender equality in labour force participation.¹³

Low educated and low skilled youth are overly represented among NEETs.¹⁴ Focusing on EU countries, education is identified as the leading risk factor for becoming NEET, increasing its likelihood by three-folds.¹⁵ A more recent study on EU countries also finds that this negative correlation still exists among 15- 29-year-olds.¹⁶ A country-level macro analysis also finds a positive and significant correlation between early school leaving and NEET status for EU and European Training Foundation (ETF) partner countries.¹⁷ Individual country analyses also point to similar findings. Using longitudinal data for the UK, Bynner and Parsons (2002) reveal that low educational achievement is the primary factor in predicting NEET status for 16-18-year-olds.¹⁸

Yet the relationship with higher levels of educational attainment and NEET status is not always linear. According to a synthetic panel data analysis of 18 Latin American countries, while educational attainment of the youth increased overall between older and younger cohorts, NEET rates slightly increased as well, pointing to problems in school-to-work transition.¹⁹ Among the EU28 countries, those with an upper secondary education, make up the largest group among the NEET population and are referred to as the “missing middle” in Eurofound (2016).²⁰ In countries like Georgia and Armenia, those with an upper secondary education are also more likely to become NEET compared to those
with a lower educational level.²¹

Socioeconomic status and household income level are other important predictors of being NEET. Studies show that family background variables like household wealth or parental education have the potential to create disadvantages for the youth later in life. Household survey analysis of 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries shows that household per capita income is the variable that is most strongly associated with being NEET for 15-18-yearolds when the household size and household head’s age, gender, education, and employment status are also controlled for.²² The study on the UK shows that a disadvantaged family background along with low educational attainment, early pregnancy, and low self-confidence are key risk factors on following an inferior labour market trajectory.²³ Alfieri and her colleagues (2015) show that for Italy, mother and father’s higher levels of education decrease the likelihood of being NEET for 18-29-year-olds.²⁴ For EU countries in general Eurofound (2012) finds that those with parents who have lower than secondary school education are found to be two times more likely to become NEET compared to those with
parents who have tertiary level education.²⁵ Those who have divorced parents or parents who experienced unemployment were also found to more likely to become NEET. The UK Department for Education research report indicates that “young people whose parents had two or three years of worklessness had an increased risk of being NEET at age 18 and more months of being NEET from age 15-18 – even when the interlinked risk factors were controlled for (e.g. socioeconomic status, parental education, and parental health)” using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).²⁶

Poor health and having a disability could also increase the likelihood of becoming NEET. According to Eurofound (2012), young people with a disability are 40 percent more likely to become NEET in the EU countries.²⁷ Among OECD countries, young people who are NEET are more than five times more likely to complain of poor health compared to non-NEET youth.²⁸ Having a disability is also found to be strongly correlated with being NEET in Georgia and Armenia.²⁹


Previous studies on NEET in Turkey focus on gender, educational attainment, and marital status as being important determinants of NEET status. Susanlı (2016) examines the determinants of being NEET in Turkey using a pooled sample from Household Labour Surveys from 2004 to 2013 and finds that gender, and educational attainment are key factors in explaining NEET status in Turkey for 15-24-year-olds.³⁰ The number of other household members in employment was also found to decrease the likelihood of being NEET, possibly proxying the economic conditions of the household. Dividing the sample by gender, the author also finds that being married increases the likelihood of being NEET for women while it decreases it for men and higher levels of education were found to reduce the likelihood of being NEET more for women compared to men with higher average marginal effects. Using Household Labour Force Survey 2012, Kılıç (2014) finds similar results with Susanlı (2016), pointing to the importance of gender and educational attainment in explaining NEET status in Turkey.³¹ Kılıç (2014) also further looks into the labour force status and past employment experience of NEET youth aged 15-24 years old finding that the majority of the NEET youth are not looking for a job but close to half of them have some past work experience. Using a nationally representative survey collected in 25 provinces in Turkey, Erdogan et al. (2017) find similar results underlining the importance of gender and educational attainment as important
determinants of being NEET in Turkey, this time for 18-29-year olds.³² Higher levels of parental education and a better household economic situation also were found to decrease the likelihood of being NEET. Analysing the sample separately for men and women again shows the different dynamics for young men and women in Turkey. The authors find that higher levels of education have a linear relationship with being NEET for women decreasing its likelihood, whereas for men the probability of being NEET was found to be highest for university graduates. Marital status also has the opposing effect for men and women as it was found in Susanlı (2016) that being married increases the likelihood of being NEET for women while it decreases the likelihood for men.

This finding also shows up in cross-country comparisons. Bardak and her colleagues (2015) compare EU countries along with the European Training
Foundation (ETF) partner countries and emphasize the gender dimension of the NEET problem in Turkey. Turkey along with Jordan, Egypt and Palestine were the countries with the highest gender gaps in NEET status, unemployment and employment.³³ Turkey was found to stand out again among other countries with the share of NEET youth men and women who are inactive (rather than unemployed). Comparing a number of selected European case countries and Turkey and using EU-SILC datasets Goksen et al. (2016) find that the NEET rate increases in all countries but Turkey in the period 2005-2013.³⁴ Yet Turkey stands out among the European countries with the highest NEET rate among women. OECD (2019) also underlines the fact that the NEET rate decreased between 2007 and 2017 for Turkey while it remains to have the highest NEET rate among OECD countries.³⁵ In our analysis, we find that gender, location and educational attainment are among the most significant determinants of NEET status (based on SILC 2017).³⁶ Gender is a particularly important determinant of NEET status in Turkey.

Young women are overrepresented among the NEET Youth in Turkey. Gender is one of the most important factors associated with being NEET. Young women are three times more likely to be in NEET status than young men in Turkey. Accordingly, the majority of the NEET youth (74.3 percent) are women (See Figure 5).

Another important determinant of NEET status is the location in Turkey. NEET youth in Turkey are concentrated in big cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir and east and south-eastern Turkey. As expected, NEET concentration is high in regions where youth concentration is also high. For instance, Istanbul is the city with the highest NEET concentration as it is also the city with the highest youth concentration. Yet NEET concentration is higher than the youth concentration in the east and south-eastern Turkey. 16 percent of all youth live in these regions as opposed to 23.1 percent of all NEET youth. Hence being NEET is a more pronounced problem in these regions of Turkey.

The likelihood of becoming NEET among the youth is highest in south-eastern Turkey. The NEET rate among the youth population ranges between 24.6 and 55.7 percent across Turkey (See Figure 6). The lowest NEET rate among the youth is seen in the region composed of Aydın, Denizli and Mugla followed by the region composed of Antalya, Isparta and Burdur. Yet even in these regions with the lowest rates, one-fourth of the youth are NEET. A young person is twice as likely to be NEET in the region of Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa compared to a young person living in the region composed of Aydin, Denizli and Mugla with Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa having the highest NEET rate of 55.7 percent among youth. Hence in this region, 1 in every 2 individuals aged 18-29 are neither in education nor in employment.

The third determinant of NEET status in Turkey is educational attainment: NEET youth tend to be less educated compared to their peers. 54.9 percent of NEET youth have basic education or less as opposed to 38.5 percent of non- NEET youth (see Annex Table 2). The rest of the NEET youth have higher degrees while again less common than non-NEET youth. 26.2 percent of NEET youth have a high school degree as opposed to 35.9 percent of non-NEET youth, and 18.9 percent have a university degree or above as opposed to 25.6 percent of non-NEET youth.

Overall a breakdown of youth by education level shows that youth with lower levels of education are more likely to become NEET (see Figure 7). Especially the youth with less than 8 years of education are the most disadvantaged group who are twice as likely to become NEET compared to youth who complete basic education. Overall 68.2 percent of youth with less than basic education are NEET while this rate drops down to 34.4 percent, 27.6 percent and 27.9 percent respectively for those who have basic education, high school degree, or university education or higher. Hence, having at least a basic education is an important factor in decreasing the risk of being NEET. Controlling for other personal and household characteristics including gender, health, household wealth, marital status and having children higher levels of education are still negatively associated with being NEET with a basic education degree decreasing the likelihood of being NEET by 20.1 percentage points while a high school degree decreasing it by 21.4 percentage points and a university degree by 18.3 percentage points compared to having less than basic education (see Annex Table 8)

While most of the NEET youth report being in good health and having no physical restraints, having bad health increases the likelihood of being NEET. Bad health is an important predictor for being NEET keeping people from engaging in education or productive activities outside of the household. In Turkey, overall, the majority of the NEET youth (85.9 percent) report having very good or good health (See Figure 5) and again the majority (88.3 percent) report that they have no physical or mental restraints. However, those with bad health have indeed a greater likelihood of being NEET. Reporting having bad health (mediocre, bad or very bad) or having a physical or mental restraint increases the likelihood of being NEET around 1.6 times. Controlling for other characteristics like gender, education and household wealth, ‘having bad health’ increases the likelihood of being NEET by 8.4 percentage points while ‘having a physical restraint’ increases the likelihood of being NEET by 10.1 percentage points (see regression results in Annex Table 8).

NEET youth are more likely to be married and less likely to be living with their parents compared to non-NEET youth. The marital status of NEET youth is important for a country like Turkey since it introduces cultural norms into the picture both for men and women but in separate directions. Overall, 51.4 percent of NEET youth are married as opposed to 27.3 percent of non-NEET youth. This difference is mostly driven by the NEET women as will be explained in the next chapter on gender. One could think that living with parents could be acting as a safety net for the youth keeping them from engaging in the labour market or education opportunities. This is not the case either in OECD countries overall or in Turkey. A cross country analysis of OECD countries shows that non-NEET are more likely to live with their parents compared to the NEET youth across OECD. Similarly, in Turkey, while a significant proportion of NEET youth is living with their parents, they are less likely to live with their parents compared to non-NEET youth. 49.2 percent of NEET youth live with their mothers or fathers as opposed to 69.7 percent of non-NEET youth (see Annex Table 2).

NEET youth are slightly more likely to live with a parent with a low level of education or bad health. SILC collects information on the mother and father of the individual if they live in the same household. Overall parents of youth in Turkey mostly are in bad health and have low levels of education. NEET youth are in a similar situation if not slightly worse. The highest education level obtained by the parents is less than basic education, with 68.7 percent of the NEET youth (who live in the same household with at least one parent) (see Figure 5). This rate is 64.1 percent for the non-NEET youth (who live with at least one parent), and the difference is statistically significant between these two groups (see Annex Table 2). Similar to the overall youth living with at least one parent, parents of NEET youth also mostly report that they are in bad health (at least one parent in the household reports bad or mediocre health). 65.4 percent of NEET youth (who live with at least one parent) are living with a
parent reporting having bad health while this rate is 59.1 percent for the non- NEET youth and the difference is statistically significant.

NEET youth are from households with varying levels of household asset index, but they are more likely to become NEET if they are from poorer households. 46.2 percent of NEET youth are living in households in the first two quintiles (See Figure 5). This rate is lower among the non-NEET youth with 32.0 percent of them living in the households in the first two quintiles. Hence NEET youth are more likely to be living in poorer households which might affect their level of education and network connections as well as how they perceive gender norms. In fact, youth living in households with lower levels of wealth are almost twice as likely to become NEET compared to the youth living in the richest households.

¹² OECD, 2017b
¹³ ibid.
¹⁴ Carcillo, Fernández, Königs, & Minea, 2015
¹⁵ Eurofound, 2012
¹⁶ Eurofound, 2016
¹⁷ Bardak, 2015
¹⁸ Bynner, 2002
¹⁹ de Hoyos, Rogers, & Székely, 2016
²⁰ Eurofound, 2016
²¹ Buitrago Hernandez, Fuchs Tarlovsky, Cancho, Lundvall, & Millan, 2019
²² Cárdenas, de Hoyos, & Székely, 2011
²³ Dorsett & Lucchino, 2014
²⁴ Alfieri, Sironib, Martaa, Rosinab, & Marzanaa, 2015
²⁵ Eurofound, 2012
²⁶ Schoon et al., 2012
²⁷ Eurofound, 2012
²⁸ OECD, 2016
²⁹ Buitrago Hernandez, Fuchs Tarlovsky, & Cancho et.al., 2019
³⁰ Susanlı, 2016
³¹ Kılıç, 2014
³² Erdoğan et al., 2017
³³ Bardak, Maseda, & Rosso, 2015
³⁴ Gökşen et al., 2016
³⁵ OECD, 2019
³⁶ Turkish Statistical Institute, 2017c

This website (https://www.developmentanalytics.org/harnessing-the-power-of-youth) was created and maintained with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Development Analytics and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.