Disengaged youth? Exploring the lives of ‘hidden NEETs’ outside the benefits system

DEVANY, Christopher (2021). Disengaged youth? Exploring the lives of ‘hidden NEETs’ outside the benefits system. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00460


This thesis focuses on the lived experiences of young men who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and do not access support from the welfare benefits system. They have been called ‘hidden' NEETs as they are statistically absent from labour market datasets and seldom access support from charities and other organisations. The broad aims of this thesis are to understand how they become disengaged and how they search for meaning outside work. The thesis diverges from the traditional approaches of youth studies through an enhanced theorisation of ‘hidden NEEThood’ by incorporating a set of relational theories. Bourdieu is used to understand how the dispositions and resources available to the participants shape their disengagement from education, employment, training and the welfare benefits system. The thesis also incorporates Goffman’s theory of stigma as well as theories of ‘masculinity’ and ‘intersectionality’ to explore the roles of gender and ethnicity. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty-four young men living in Sheffield who were currently ‘hidden NEET’ or had recent experience of this status. The research presents several key findings. The literature review utilises Bourdieu's theory of ‘hysteresis’ to detail how long-term economic and policy processes have gradually created the conditions for ‘hidden NEEThood’. The empirical chapters also detail the overlooked proximity between homelessness and unemployment when ‘welfare conditionality’ and precarious labour markets intersect, in doing so, showing how very small amounts of social capital can result in significant differences to the lived experience of ‘hidden NEEThood’. Despite this, the thesis reveals how unemployment is not necessarily a state of marginalisation or disengagement as, for some, it can be a place of succour, particularly given experiences of 'poor work' in contemporary labour markets. A novel framework combines the concept of ontological security alongside the work of Bourdieu to explore the conditions and circumstances required for such young working-class men to feel ‘secure’ and find meaning in their lives. Finally, the thesis argues that NEEThood is not simply caused by poor employment prospects but is an outcome of wider socio-economic disadvantages.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Crisp, Richard [0000-0002-3097-8769]
Thesis advisor - Gore, Tony
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Richard Crisp / Supervisor: Dr. Tony Gore
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00460
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2022 16:12
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 15:30
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/30547

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