From Wikipedia

NEET is an acronym that stands for "Not in Education, Employment, or Training". It refers to a person who is unemployed, not receiving an education or in vocational training.

I'm not sure if the acronym is commonly-used in your country, but if it is, then do you use it to describe someone who are in their late 30s, 40s and 50s also? If you don't, is there any alternative word to describe them other than such negative sounding ones as the jobless or the unemployed?

3 Answers 3


To put a positive spin, the word "jobseeker" is sometimes used. It means a person who is actively seeking work. Other categories of person may be unemployed but not jobseekers: "Homemaker" is a relatively new term for "housewife" (or househusband). We can also talk about a person based on how they get money to live: You could talk about "a person on disability benefit", for example. Finally an older person can be described as "retired", which implies that they are drawing a pension.

The most general term is "economically inactive person", which is used by statisticians to include jobseekers, homemakers and those unfit for work for various reasons.

  • Very interesting. Do you use "economically inactive person" with no negative connotation? If so, that's what I was looking for. If not, then I would prefer something like "strategically economically inactive person".
    – Takashi
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 10:07
  • It is a new expression intended to cover a wide range of people who are not working for money in one way or another. Its fine for an a report, but tits a bit too dry for speech. It sounds technical (and so not positive or negative) rather than emotional. You would be more likely to say "There were 8 million economically inactive adults in the country" but you wouldn't say "Ted is economically inactive". But you might say "Ted is unemployed" or "Ted is looking for work". Neither is particularly negative. In an age of mass unemployment, not having a job is not embarrasing.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 13:44

In British politics and media, the term "Youth Unemployment" is used to describe 18-24-year-olds who are not in employment - everybody older is classed as an adult. "Adult unemployment" is not normally used as a corresponding term - that is just "unemployment". Some people are of the opinion that this division is for the purpose of making "unemployment" statistics look better than they are, by excluding 18-24-year-olds from the standard figured. Others say that youths who have just left education should not be included in unemployment figures because they have not been put out of work, and finding a job after education does take time, so including them would only skew the figures.

Therefore, "unemployment" in the UK is automatically assumed to be people over the age of 25, not so far off the 30-year-old point you are asking about.

For people aged 45-65, this is termed "middle-aged", and the media do sometimes refer to this group as "middle-aged unemployed" (or "middle-aged and unemployed).

As 60-65 has been the standard retirement age for some time, people over this age are not generally thought of as being unemployed when not in work.

  • Thanks. It's interesting to know that you have those different unemployment categories. They all, however, sound a bit negative because of the word "Unemployment".
    – Takashi
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 10:03

If the person is planning to find another job soon, then I think the most common not-negative way to describe that is that they are between jobs.

If they have earned enough money to last for the rest of their life, and they have decided not to work any more, they are retired, regardless of how old they are.

If they are speaking to recruiters, hiring managers, potential coworkers, and other "job people," they will probably describe themselves as available for opportunities. In the professional world, this is a well-known fancy way of saying "unemployed and looking for work."

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