Article Text

Download PDFPDF
P100 An exploration of employment experiences and their effects on the wellbeing of marginalized young people ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ in an inner-London borough; a qualitative study using photo elicitation
  1. Alexandra Levitas1,
  2. Dalya Marks2,
  3. Rosa Lau3,
  4. Shanti Chingen4
  1. 1Public Health, Islington Council, London, UK
  2. 2Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Health and Social Care Policy, National Centre for Social Reserach, London, UK
  4. 4Communities and Social Policy, Greater London Authority, London, UK


Background Unemployment, including precarious employment, negatively impacts wellbeing, especially for young people transitioning into adulthood. UK policies to reduce numbers of youth who are ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET) have been criticized for not addressing the complexity of factors impacting young people’s employment, including work quality. This study explores the lived experiences of marginalized young people in an inner-city London borough to better understand their employment trajectories, support they require transitioning into adult work, and the factors impacting their sense of stability and wellbeing.

Methods Six young people aged 18–25 years classified as NEET were recruited via an employment support service to attend two group workshops a week apart. Workshops included facilitated group discussions and participants sharing photographs they took to reflect their search for employment and their professional aspirations. Sessions were recorded and transcribed. An inductive thematic approach was undertaken using NVivo.

Results We report on four main themes: 1) Employment Contexts: Young people fluidly moved between low-quality jobs, despite being classified as NEET, exemplifying employment precariousness. 2) Self-Actualization: Young people viewed employment as more than a means to a wage, but instead wanted to find jobs that match their interests and lead to professional and personal development. Many wanted to work in the arts or entrepreneurship, however due to their marginalized backgrounds they did not have sufficient social capital or adult guidance. 3) Finding Support: Traditional employment support was found to be inadequate. Instead, the young people reflected that the occasional relationships they had built with responsible adults (often through incidental encounters) were more helpful in navigating job markets than traditional routes. 4) Wellbeing: Participants showed resilience when faced with difficult transitions into adult work, however prolonged precarious employment led to eroding wellbeing and worsening mental health.

Conclusion Classifying young people as ‘NEET’ is not useful as their employment situations are complex and non-linear. Young people need supportive adult guidance to navigate low-quality jobs while they strive to establish meaningful personal and professional identities. We conclude that employment programmes should focus less on NEET youth securing a(ny) job, and more on giving marginalized young people the spaces to explore professional identities that are safe and protective of wellbeing.

Limitations This was a feasibility study commissioned by an employment service. Follow-up (including a photographic exhibition) was disrupted by Covid-19.

Strengths Traditionally ‘hard-to-engage’ young people were empowered to voice their priorities through introducing creative elements e.g., photo elicitation.

  • young people
  • unemployment
  • photo elicitation

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.