Economic inactivity of young people aged 16-24: Definition, reasons and potential future focus

Report brings together evidence on inactivity and build knowledge on the reasons for inactivity amongst young people aged 16 to 24. In this report, we used published ONS data and have summarised the main results from existing published qualitative research for Scotland and the UK in the last 5 years

Summary infographic


Infographic text description below:

Overall trends

35.8% of young people 16-24 were economically inactive representing a decrease of 4.1 percentage points compared with the same time period in 2021 (i.e. January to December). In addition, this is lower in Scotland than in the Uniter Kingdom as a whole.

For gender: higher inactivity rates in men than women (37.8% vs. 33.8%)

For age: 16-19 had higher inactivity than young people in the 20-24 age band (52.6% vs. 24.6%)

For disability: in 2022, 54.9% of inactive 16-24 young people were disabled

Barriers and Reasons for inactivity

The graph shows changes in reason for inactivity across the years (between 2008 and 2022) from caring responsibilities to long-term sickness.

Qualitative evidence explores four key elements:

  • Health: physical and mental illness as factors, and the role of disability in inactivity rates
  • Location: qualitative evidence explores the role that lack of opportunities place in rural areas
  • Personal experiences: feelings of discouragement from available opportunities and lack of confidence and work experience affect ability to engage with the labour market
  • Support and financial difficulties: lack of emotional and financial support, particularly for women with children, to enrol in employment

Gaps in evidence

There is limited use of the available open data. There is also lack of evidence on:

  • How individual factors such as location, gender, ethnicity, affect inactivity
  • In-depth reasons for inactivity
  • How willingness to work or previous work experience relates to inactivity levels

Future research

Some topics worth exploring would be:

  • Mental health
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Knowledge of the education system
  • Opportunities available to young people
  • Individual factors (e.g. aspirations)

It would also be relevant to have a better understanding of how these topics interact with each other – i.e. intersectionality and cumulative effects.



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