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Evaluation of the Government’s Strategy for Young People who neither work nor study. Final report (2019:12)

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has evaluated the implementation of the measures in the Government's Strategy for Young People who neither work nor study (NEET). The strategy has been aimed at improving the opportunities for young people to establish themselves in the labour market and society.

The strategy includes measures for improved collaboration regarding NEET, measures for better knowledge on NEET, and measures that have targeted NEET directly. The latter consist of state subsidies to two different types of projects as well as support for upper secondary schools in preventing students from dropping out. Statskontoret has reviewed these three measures in particular, in accordance with the commission.

A heterogeneous target group with a complexity of problems

In 2018, it was estimated that there are 71,000 NEET, which means that they constitute 6.2 per cent of all young people. The group is heterogeneous and their needs and conditions vary greatly. NEET are more often than not young people with low qualifications who are born abroad and they have, to a greater degree, functional variations or suffer from mental illness.

A strategy without strategic content

The Government's strategy has spanned a wide area and has involved many different kinds of actors. However, it has lacked a clear concept of how the various parts should be connected and complement each other.

The measures in the strategy have in most cases entailed no significant costs in and of themselves. However, these measures appear to be costly when put in relation to the number of young people who have been reached by the efforts aimed directly at the target group,. The potential savings to society resulting from the measures may be large, but this requires that long-term effects are achieved for individuals.

Long take-off run for the measures aimed at the target group

Three measures were focused directly on the target group. The responsible actors at the national level, the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, and the Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet), found it difficult to interpret their assignments. This contributed to it taking a long time to announce the state subsidies and the support for the schools. It has had consequences at the local level, where they have sometimes had a short time to start the projects.

The geographical distribution of the state subsidies has generally been good. However, the initiative has not reached several regions with high numbers of NEET. The projects have reached groups that have been specified by the Government; young people with mental ill health, young people with functional variation, and newly arrived immigrants. But the projects have found it more difficult to reach women than men. Individuals with particularly serious problems have sometimes required labour-intensive outreach activities, and not all projects have reached these individuals.

Operations have been able to strengthen their support...

The state subsidy has led to new and developed support measures for NEET. The actors involved have been able to use more labour-intensive methods and have developed new insights into the target group and concerning which methods are effective.

...but it is difficult to disseminate positive experiences

The individual subsidised projects have only been evaluated to a very limited extent. Statskontoret has found that the operations have used the funds granted effectively, and the support has been very valuable for the individuals. However, in order to contribute to new knowledge, individual projects and working methods need to be evaluated.

The young people are very positive about the support they have received from the projects

Participants in the projects find that the support has been valuable, and for many, invaluable. Success is evident in gradual transitions in the direction of studies and work. Some have also taken the step and begun studies, internships and jobs. But it is too early to see the long-term effects.

Short-term projects reduce the efficiency and ability to meet targets

Project funding has been granted for only one year at a time, and many have seen their application rejected for an additional year of project work. A large part of the first project year has often been devoted to getting the activities up and running and making contact with participants. This has not left much time for method development and dissemination of knowledge. The majority of the activities that have been developed through these state subsidies are seeking new funding to continue on providing the support they have been able to give NEET after the project funding has been expended.

As far as schools are concerned, we can see that the new methods initiated at the schools that have received support from the Swedish National Agency for Education risk coming to a standstill if the headteacher stops working there.

Difficult to see effects in society

Potentially, the benefits can be significant for these types of measures. However, the measures have reached too few individuals. It is also too early to discern long-term effects. The measures have only to a limited extent reached areas with high levels of NEET. Nor can we observe that knowledge has been disseminated outside the local area or school.

Statskontoret's proposals

Statskontoret is of the opinion that a more effective strategy can be achieved if there is a strategy direction in place. For state subsidised projects to have lasting value, the Government needs to set goals for the projects. Possible reasons could be

  • knowledge building and the dissemination of experiences
  • assistance for individual actors in building up new operations
  • support to actors with major problems.

In a future initiative, the Government should take the motive in account when it formulates the conditions for the state subsidy. In order to ensure that projects really contribute to increased knowledge, resources must be allocated for evaluation. Assistance in building up operations is facilitated if the recipient promises to use working methods that have proved successful. If the support is to reach actors with major problems, it must be targeted at them.

Statskontoret is not submitting any concrete proposal on how support to schools could be designed.