Norway should step up its efforts to boost the job prospects of young people without upper-secondary qualification to further reduce the share of under-30 year-olds who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs), according to a new OECD report.

Investing in Youth: Norway says that labour market conditions of young people in Norway are generally favourable, with more 15-29 year-olds employed than the OECD average (59% vs 52%). The youth employment trend is declining, however, as the number of job opportunities for them has failed to match the rapidly increasing youth population, which rose by 18% between 2007 and 2016. Immigration accounted for over four-fifths of this increase.

Nearly one-in-ten (9%) young people – 86 000 of all 15-to-29 year-olds – were NEET in 2016, two percentage points higher than in 2008. Nearly two-thirds of NEETs were not actively looking for work. More efforts are needed to help NEETs, particularly inactive youth, according to the report.

Norwegian NEETs tend to be more disadvantaged than in other OECD countries. More than half (56%) have not completed upper-secondary education and young people born abroad are more than twice as likely to be NEETs as their Norwegian-born peers. NEETs are also nine times more likely to be of poor health and six times more likely to feel depressed than other young people.

Combatting early school leaving has been a policy priority in Norway for decades but almost one-in-five (19%) 25-34 year-olds do not have an upper-secondary qualification, well above the OECD average of 16%. Early school leaving is especially common among students in vocational education and training (VET), with only 63% graduating within two years of the end of the regular programme, compared to 72% in Sweden or 80% in Austria.

The first two years of VET are mostly school-based and many students then struggle to find an apprenticeship place with a firm for the next two years. Employers are often reluctant to take on apprentices as most students only have limited job-specific skills and apprentice remuneration is also comparatively generous.

The "New Youth Effort", which replaced Norway’s “Youth Guarantee” in 2017, has the potential to improve employment opportunities for NEETs. For this new policy framework to be effective, its implementation through the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration NAV needs to be systematically monitored, however, and additional funding for employment programmes may be needed.