For the past 11/ years, 24-year-old Benjamin has been spending his days at home.
He is not in school. He is not working. He is not undergoing training.
He whiles away the time reading the newspapers, browsing the Internet or listening to the radio, keeping his expenses to a minimum. Occasionally, he ventures out to run errands with his parents, who pay for his meals and other necessities.
Benjamin, who does not want his real name used due to the stigma associated with his condition, has a diploma in media and communication from Singapore Polytechnic.
But he became fearful about looking for jobs after unsuccessful applications to about 10 post-production companies. He has also had negative experiences during previous internships, including being fired at an events company for being slow at simple tasks such as packing items into containers.
Last year, he fell into depression. Benjamin is among a growing group of youth aged 15 to 24 in Singapore who are defined as Neet (not in education, employment or training) by organisations such as the World Bank and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The latest available data – from the National Youth Survey in 2016 – showed that there are 20,100 Neets here, making up 4.1 per cent of the resident youth population.
This is an uptick from 19,700 in 2013, comprising 3.7 per cent of the resident youth population.
The survey was conducted by the National Youth Council, with input from the Ministry of Manpower and the National Population and Talent Division. It polled a representative sample of 3,531 youth in 2016, and 2,843 youth in 2013.
Unlike the youth unemployment rate – which captures the number of jobless among those actively searching for work, Neet data includes those who have dropped out of the labour force altogether.
This is thus a more comprehensive measure of the economically idle among young Singaporeans, said the survey report.
Neets are a vulnerable segment of the youth population, said the ILO, as they are at risk of both labour market and social exclusion.
Singapore’s Neet rate is low by global standards. Neet rates in other developed countries such as Germany and Finland in 2016 ranged from 6.5 to 9.9 per cent.
But higher job expectations, on top of uncertain economic conditions, may have led to a growth in this Neet rate – which experts say is likely to go higher.