Generation Z is increasingly choosing to be NEET – out of employment, education or training.

Like Peter Pan, there is a growing group of Gen Zers who refuse to embrace major life milestones that mark adulthood, such as getting a qualification or getting a job.

Instead, they choose to become NEET (not in employment, education or training), creating record levels of youth unemployment around the world.

According to the International Labour Organization, by 2023, roughly one-fifth of people aged 15 to 24 worldwide will be NEET.

In Spain alone, more than half a million 15-24 year-olds are neither studying nor working, while in the UK, around three million Gen Zers are classed as economically inactive, with 384,000 young people joining the “unemployed” category since the pandemic began.

While these studies don’t delve into what prompts young people to abandon the rat race and live with their parents or on public subsidies, other research has found that even when young people start to climb the corporate ladder, buying their own home still seems impossible.

The milestone of adulthood seems just out of reach.

A plethora of studies have found that people in their early 20s are earning less, having more debt, and being more likely to default on payments than millennials were their age.

According to a study by credit reporting firm TransUnion, people in their 20s today make about $45,500 a year, while millennials the same age make $51,852 when adjusted for inflation.

Despite falling incomes, inflation is forcing young people today to shell out big bucks for basic necessities like food, groceries, and gasoline, even as home prices have risen more than twice as fast as incomes since the 2000s.

This discrepancy goes a long way to explaining why young people feel that saving or working for the future is a waste.

As one Gen Z person put it: luck: “The future is depressing, so I’m just focusing on the present.”

Hustle is a thing of the past

Hustle, girlboss, or “work hard, play harder” mentality hasn’t taken hold with Gen Z as much as it did with millennials.

Many young people today would rather protect their happiness than compete for promotion in a corporate world that could leave them unable to afford the mansions their parents bought for a pittance.

They may want to work, but they don’t want a career. Instead, many Gen Zers are turning to easy jobs that don’t require regular overtime, unsociable working hours, or major responsibilities like managing a large team.

Some are shunning the office: Currently, the most popular job among Gen Z graduates is teaching, which balances low pay with a few weeks of vacation, while Gen Zers without college degrees are picking up tools and taking up trades in record numbers.

Mental health struggles

At the same time that youth unemployment is rising, their mental health is also declining.

Gen Z is nearly twice as stressed as millennials were at the same age. More than a third of 18-24 year olds suffer from “common mental disorders” (CMDs) such as stress, anxiety and depression. And working Gen Zers take significantly more sick leave than their Gen X counterparts, who are 20 years older.

“Youth unemployment due to ill health is real and on the rise and it is worrying that young people in their early 20s, just starting out in adult life, are more likely to lose their jobs due to ill health than those in their early 40s,” researchers at the Resolution Foundation think tank previously wrote. luck.

With over half of CEOs admitting that their company culture is toxic, is it really so surprising that people who are mentally distressed avoid entering the world of work?

Would you choose unemployment over climbing the corporate ladder? I want to hear your story. Email: orianna.royle@fortune.com

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