Our colleague, Vojtěch Dvořák, from the IREAS Institute in the Czech Republic, defended his master’s thesis entitled: “Analysis of the status of 25+ NEETs in the Czech Republic with a focus on coal regions and evaluation of selected policies addressing their situation.” He has thus completed his master’s degree and is continuing to his PhD, where he will focus on the role of the human factor in regional development.
Following the Lost Millennials project model, the thesis deals with the topic of 25+ NEETs, which is currently considered at the EU level as a key issue, as working with young people helps national economies prosper and move towards a better future. The thesis aims to consolidate the theoretical understanding of human capital and its role in theories of regional development to map the concept of NEETs, its history, the factors affecting NEETs and approaches to NEETs. In addition, to map how countries approach NEETs across the EU with a focus on the Czech environment. Five selected regional projects are examined in more detail in the Czech Republic. These projects address the plight of young people outside the labour market and education, which may include 25+ NEETs.
Two hypotheses have been tested in the thesis:
- The existence of 25+ NEETs in the Czech environment is determined mainly by the unfavourable socio-economic climate in the regions, i.e., high unemployment rate, low level of educational attainment and accompanying social pathological phenomena.
- The individual social environment of each individual, e.g., family background and mental health, also plays a major role.
The answer to the hypothesis is as follows. The existence of 25+ NEETs is not a pressing problem in the Czech Republic. Their population share is among the lowest compared to other EU countries. However, their share in the Czech Republic has a strong regional dimension, reflecting the state of the labour market in individual regions. The most problematic situation in the labour market can be observed especially in the structurally affected regions (three regions of the Czech Republic in which intensive transformation processes are underway and whose economic performance lags the rest of the country), where the highest share of the target group was also identified, using the derived indicator of the number of job seekers in the register of the Labour Office. The increased accumulation of applied approaches for young people in these regions confirms this. These approaches actively address the situation of young people and help them in many ways in the labour market or in the educational process. Globally, four groups of factors play a role in whether someone becomes a member of the NEETs group (see the first research question). Many of them show worse results in structurally affected regions of the Czech Republic than in the rest of the country, i.e., they determine higher shares of NEETs.
Furthermore, four research questions were answered to help develop the hypotheses further:
What Are the General Factors Influencing the Emergence of the 25+ NEETs Group?
The factors influencing the emergence of the 25+ NEETs group can be divided into four groups, as can be seen from the exploratory analysis. The first group is the factors affecting human capital itself. These are age, education, the economy and its state and dynamics, culture, and society. It also depends on the characteristics of the people themselves, their level of intelligence, qualifications, knowledge, ethics, skills, motivation, and health. The second group are the factors that can be identified as statistically significant determinants for the status of NEETs, mapped by many authors and based on external realities experienced by individuals. These are mainly the social environment, education, gender, place of residence and the family situation in which the individual grew up. For women, motherhood is an important factor in this group. The third group are factors that affect the individual internally. These are resistance to education and wider life connotations such as social employment. The fourth group of factors are regional characteristics or geo-economic. Different economic situations of regions provide their inhabitants with different opportunities for employment in the labour market, which may be in good or bad shape. In a well-functioning labour market, there is no major problem for 25+ NEETs in finding employment and placement, but this is no longer the case in a market that is not functioning so well. 25+ NEETs face barriers due to their lack of qualifications, little work experience, lack of education and other
What Is the Success and Functionality of the Czech Applied Approaches of Different Actors (NGOs, Labour Office) In the Context of 25+ NEETs?
Many applied approaches have been identified in the Czech Republic, targeting 25+ NEETs. Five were selected by the author and evaluated as follows from the identified ones. This has shown that these are relatively successful projects that have helped many people on their way back to the labour market or into education. Seven areas were mapped, and recommendations were made. For the first area (implementer), it was recommended to construct applied approaches where the Labour Office will be the implementer and regional institutions will become a supportive partners. For the second area (supported activities), a combination of the supported activities used so far was recommended. The third area (target group) confirmed the importance of the interaction between the Labour Office and the regional institutions. The Labour Office works with persons on its register, and the region assists in reaching persons outside it. The fourth area (reflection on the specifics of young people) pointed out that greater reflection on the characteristics of young people and the introduction of a greater degree of psychological assistance in the socio-economic activation of clients would require greater intervention in the organisational structures of the Labour Office and the regions. The fifth area (the financial side of the support) confirmed the cost-effectiveness of the selected applied approaches. The sixth area (results and their sustainability) pointed to the lack of evaluation activities and the seventh area (future outlook) to the fact that the implementers plan to focus on young people and help them to find employment in the labour market or in the educational process. This agenda will mainly fall under the Labour Office. Still, they will work closely with the regions, which will become the main partners of cooperation with schools, NGOs, social services and other actors in the field of socio-economic activation of people working with them.
What Are the Main Causes of Regional Disparities in the Number of 25+ NEETs Nationwide?
The different economic situations of the regions provide different opportunities for their inhabitants to enter the labour market, which may be in good or bad shape. In the Czech Republic, the labour market is in very good shape, there is still an excess of jobs on offer over those in demand, but the regional dimension of the issue plays a strong role. Not all regions of the Czech Republic have a labour market in such good shape. The situation is most problematic in structurally affected regions.
What Are the Main Specific Determinants of the Worsened Situation of 25+ NEETs in Structurally Affected Regions of the Czech Republic, and How Are Regional Policies Addressing This Situation?
The structurally affected regions show the worst results regarding unemployment, educational attainment, and economic performance measured in GDP per capita and household disposable income per capita. The three affected regions also have the lowest long-term life expectancy at birth. The highest shares of the population with no education or incomplete primary education can be observed in the Ústí and Karlovy Vary Region, and the lowest shares of the population with tertiary education, or the smallest increase between 2011 and 2021, in the Karlovy Vary and Moravian-Silesian Regions. These factors influence the environment of the regions and determine the emergence of the NEETs group. In structurally affected regions, an increased accumulation of applied approaches, implemented by regions and labour offices, focusing on the socio-economic activation of young people, which includes 25+ NEETs, can be observed. Thus, it can be stated that in structurally problematic regions, many actors (mainly Labour Offices and regions, partners in these approaches are social service institutions, education, NGOs, employers and others) are actively working with this group.