Abstract: A rapidly ageing population, the dual transition, major changes in the job market, and the coronavirus and its effects amplify existing disparities (gender gap, urban-rural cleavages), posing a considerable challenge for peripheral regions. In these circumstances, the labour market integration of young people who are neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) is becoming increasingly urgent for peripheral regions such as rural areas. Various legislation, policies, and community-based interventions play a significant role in promoting integration. Still, subjective factors such as self-efficacy beliefs affect perceptions of career opportunities and can even prevent some from seizing opportunities. As a result, approaches to tackling the rural NEET issue need to focus on a long-term, sustainable solution. One could be career guidance, which helps individuals take charge of their lives and choose meaningful careers and educational paths. Consequently, our research aimed to identify the conditions in 22 European countries related to career guidance that lead to low rural NEET rates among 25–29-year-olds. Career guidance systems were explored through content analysis of country-specific reports on lifelong guidance systems and then analysed using the fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis. The research results draw attention to the importance of coordinated career guidance systems in preventing and (re)integrating NEETs, as it helps make informed, meaningful, and long-term career decisions.
Keywords: active labour market policies; career guidance; governance; NEETs; peripheral regions; rurality