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Young people across the EU face complex pathways in transitioning between education and work, particularly the so-called NEETs (youth not in employment, education and training). The NEET rate for different age groups ranges, with higher rates for older youth, especially people between 25-29 (25+NEETs). Even though national governments in EU member states have put significant efforts to alleviate the difficulties of NEETs, there are remaining issues with youth unemployment. Of particular concern is the marked gender gap in the NEET rate across the entire EU, as well as the alarming tendency of rural areas to be home to more NEETs than urban areas (especially among Eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria).

Policymakers across the EU face a number of difficulties in producing solutions to tackling inactivity among NEETs, including the heterogenous nature of NEETs calling for group-specific interventions; the current policies characterized by content deficits; as well as the lacking or superficial monitoring and evaluation of interventions.

These themes were among the highlights of the international forum Lost and found: Reimagining of Europe's Employment Policies Evaluation of Policy Initiatives Tackling 25+ NEETs Unemployment  which took place on 28 November 2023 in Brussels. Among the key speakers at the event were leading experts in the field of youth employment and youth policy evaluation in the EU, including: Joroen Jutte, Head of the European Social Fund+ (EU Commission); Nora Mehsen, EEA and Norway Grants; Irina Lonean, European Evaluation Society and Pool of European Youth Researchers; Luca Koltai, Research Director, HETFA Research Institute; Tatiana Ferreira, COST Action Rural NEET Youth Network; and,  Ana Sofia Ribeiro, Institute of Social Science of the University of Lisbon.

The event was co-organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy and gathered representatives of the European Commission (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) and leading experts in the field of youth employment, policy monitoring and evaluation. Dr. Alexander Gerganov, Director of the Sociological Program of CSD, opened the forum by emphasizing the contemporary issues faced by NEETs in Europe. Dr. Lilia Yakova, Research Fellow at CSD highlighted the most prominent policy approaches to EU youth employment and put forward ideas for future policy directions. The participants at the forum discussed the current challenges before various sub-groups of NEETs, especially among young women, rural dwellers, migrants and ethnic minorities. The panelists concluded that in order to effectively address youth unemployment, the EU and national governments should adopt a more comprehensive and collaborative approach involving multiple stakeholders and institutions and that such cross-sectoral collaboration should be supported by robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure the effectiveness of youth employment policies.

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