The Finnish Youth Research Network together with outreach youth workers examined: Surprised by the depth of ill-being among NEET youth

The Finnish Youth Research Network carried out a unique study into the views of young people between the ages of 15 to 29 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). The 117 interviews conducted by outreach youth workers sought out youths who are normally difficult to reach using ordinary surveys.

Life satisfaction is poor among those who are not in education or employment. The results differ considerably from the core sample in the Youth Barometer and the difference is particularly wide in terms of mental health and financial circumstances. The results indicate that being outside working life and education is not offset by for instance fulfilling recreational activities or friends. Satisfaction is poor both in terms of life in general and in all sub-areas of life that were examined.

Lack of friends main reason for social exclusion

When asked about the reasons for social exclusion, the lack of friends was the most significant factor. Young people feel that exclusion is above all about being excluded from social life. Exclusion from paid work and education are less important for young people in terms of the definition of exclusion.

A sense of loneliness was more common and the percentage of young people who have no close friends was many times higher than among young people on average (core sample in the Youth Barometer). Belief in other people is also weaker. A sense of being part of Finnish society is weaker among NEET youth. Particularly Helsinki stands out, where the sense of being part of the society is much weaker than elsewhere.

Engaging in society and being involved in politics is uncommon, and especially boys tend to feel alienated from politics. The majority of the respondents say they are in favour of democracy, however, although they have little intention of voting and faith in politicians is minimal.

Pessimism, desolation, but no radicalisation

While only a minority considers society to be fair, there were no real signs of radicalisation in the interviews. Quite the opposite, the overall picture of NEET youth is one of passivity, pessimism in many ways and even desolate, but partly hopeful too.

Many young people have opinions about how their situation could be improved. There was an open-ended space at the end of the questionnaire:

Feedback to the local authorities from a substance abuser’s point of view: ‘We need to cooperate with nearby municipalities in rehabilitation for substance abusers.’
‘Art workshops for young people are valuable. All the help I have ever got in life is from the workshops. The workshops and outreach youth work are in the same building.’
‘Legislation on transsexualism is outdated, unfair and inhuman!’
‘The reasons for young people being socially excluded lies seldom in the individual...’
Young people, outreach youth workers and researchers alike felt that it was useful to collect the views of young people in the way it was done in this study. By collecting data this way in future too it is possible to help make society more equitable – otherwise advances will be made only on the terms set by those who are the loudest.

And as one young person observed: ‘Let’s get back to this when we meet again.’

The data was collected by youth outreach workers by means of individual interviews between September and October 2017. The questions related mainly to wellbeing, the future, democracy and public services. The young people interviewed (n=117) lived in Helsinki-Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Central Finland and Kainuu. The study will be continued by means of in-depth interviews and the analysis of register material.

Information on the data composition

Anu Gretschel & Sami Myllyniemi (2017) Työtä, koulutus- tai harjoittelupaikkaa ilman olevien nuorten käsityksiä tulevaisuudesta, demokratiasta ja julkisista palveluista – Nuorisobarometrin erillisnäyte/aineistonkeruu. Available in pdf-format at (in Finnish only)

The data was collected by the Finnish Youth Research Network.

Contact details

Sami Myllyniemi
Statistical Researcher
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
tel. +358 40 7151 721

Anu Gretschel
Senior Researcher
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
tel. +358 40 516 91 89

The survey was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office. It will be exploited by inequality working group chaired by Professor Juho Saari.