Did you know that there are more young women than young men not in employment, education or training (NEET)? Between July and September this year, 55% of 16-24 year olds NEETs were women. This has a massive impact. Women who have previously been NEET are more likely than those who haven’t to be unemployed in the future. And young women are more likely than men to get stuck in low paid insecure work. 79% of those who have only had minimum wage jobs in the last 10 years are women.

Throughout 2014-15 Young Women’s Trust ran an inquiry called Scarred for life? about the crisis in young women’s worklessness and what the solutions might be. Here are some of the conclusions we drew.

We shouldn’t make assumptions about young women

“…young women make lifestyle choices to be mothers, wives or partners and have children. There might be a poverty issue as a consequence of that. It isn’t a barrier, but one of choice.” (Local authority)

It’s often assumed that motherhood leads women to duck out of the labour market. Our research shows that only 24% of young women NEET are mums and regardless of having children or not, 95% of young women NEET say that getting paid work is important to them.

Information, advice and guidance should reflect young women’s needs

“The question we need to be asking ourselves is… are the interventions that we are supplying to support young women actually moving them to things that are long-term sustainable?” (Employer organisation)

Young women reported that careers advice through school and the National Careers Service was patchy and inadequate. When they did receive advice, it encouraged them to pursue stereotypically ‘feminine’ jobs like childcare, beauty and retail – which are typically low-paid and insecure.

Young women are more likely than men to be caring for their own children or relatives. Care and travel costs are prohibitive for young carers and it is important that advisers can signpost to local, flexible work.

Apprenticeships are touted as a solution to youth unemployment, but high entrance qualifications and low pay prevent young women applying – especially if they have family responsibilities.

We need local data about NEETs, taking gender into account

The term NEET implies a uniformity which simply does not exist. Young women in this group need totally different support from those waiting to hear back from potential employers, or those on a gap year, teenage mums.” (Non-departmental public body)

Work Programme providers and other employment-related support organisations told us that they received very little information about the young people referred to them; neither was there sufficient publicly available data about NEETs for them to draw on.

That’s why Young Women’s Trust want government to publish data on NEETs, unemployment and economic inactivity at national and local level by age, gender and ethnicity. It’s impossible to tailor effective interventions to young women if the data about them isn’t there.

What’s next?

Young women NEET are more likely to be economically inactive than unemployed. This means that they are not considered to be actively seeking work, are not able to claim Job Seekers Allowance, and miss out on the support available to those who are unemployed. Young women aged 16-24 are almost twice as likely as young men to be in this bracket.

The Young Women’s Trust, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, has started new research to understand exactly which young women are economically inactive and what support they need to find work.

Over the coming months we’ll be talking to service providers, agencies, policymakers and young women to understand how economic inactivity policy plays out in practice. Do you think you have some of the answers? Or do you want to hear about them as we do the research? If you’d like to work with us or be kept up to date, then please get in touch.