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The Multifaceted Consequences of Labour Market Insecurity

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Policymakers throughout Europe are enacting policies to support youth labour market integration. However, many young people continue to face unemployment, job insecurity, and the subsequent consequences.

Adopting a mixed-method and multilevel perspective, this book provides a comprehensive investigation into the multifaceted consequences of social exclusion. Drawing on rich pan-European comparative and quantitative data, and interviews with young people from across Europe, this text gives a platform to the unheard voices of young people.

Contributors derive crucial new policy recommendations and offer fresh insights into areas including youth well-being, health, poverty, leaving the parental home, and qualifying for social security.

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As a result of the projected ageing of Europe’s population, the sustainability of public pensions has become one of the most important political issues in recent decades, because the number of pension recipients is increasing while the number of pension contributors is decreasing. Hence, the period over which pension recipients receive pension payouts is expected to increase in many OECD countries (Chomik and Whitehouse, 2010). Pay-as-you-go pension systems, which are common across Europe, face increasing difficulties in ensuring their current and future sustainability.

These difficulties were already acknowledged in a report published by the World Bank in 1994, entitled Averting the Old Age Crisis: Policies to Protect the Old and Promote Growth. Here, it was argued that in the face of ageing populations, three-pillar pension systems should be established that combine standard public pensions with additional savings into both occupational and private pension plans. Up to now, many European countries have established such three-pillar pension systems, though with significant cross-national variations in the relative importance of the three pillars. At the same time, the generosity of public pensions, which previously accounted for the ‘lion’s share’ of old-age income, has generally decreased – for example, by reducing the gross pension replacement rate and increasing the retirement age (OECD, 2013). With the implementation of the three-pillar pension model, responsibility for ensuring a sustainable income in old-age has been shifted increasingly away from public authorities and on to individuals. This creates intergenerational inequalities, because – unlike today’s pensioners who still retire with good public pensions – almost all young Europeans will retire under the new three-pillar pension system (Ebbinghaus and Gronwold, 2011).

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The increasing old-age dependency ratio produces a major financial challenge for pension systems, and this development may place an unsustainable financial burden on the active population, adversely affecting Europe’s economic growth. The future sustainability of pension systems in Europe is not endangered by demographic ageing alone. Most western industrialised countries have experienced augmented withdrawal of older workers from the labour market, thereby sustaining the financial pressure on contemporary pension systems. This chapter illustrates in detail possible policy solutions for reform. It illustrates how European welfare states have adjusted their pension systems very differently to the growing imbalance between contributors and recipients. While debate about pension privatisation is increasingly dominating public discourse, there remains large cross-national variation in Europe regarding the actual existence and extent of non-public pension components. Significant cross-country differences also exist regarding the extent to which European countries have been (and still are) affected by (structural) unemployment.

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Labour market insecurities are widespread among young people in Europe, and they represent a key challenge to society. Comparative research has shown that, across Europe, youth often experience labour market exclusion in terms of periods of unemployment and episodes of being not in employment, education, or training (NEET) (Eurofound, 2012; Dietrich, 2013; Lange et al, 2014; O’Reilly et al, 2015; Rokicka et al, 2018). Moreover, if young people actually do find a job, they often face job insecurity in the form of temporary jobs (Baranowska and Gebel, 2010; Karamessini et al, 2019; Passaretta and Wolbers, 2019). Indeed, labour market insecurities hit young people more often than the rest of the population in Europe (Breen, 2005; Baranowska and Gebel, 2010).

However, counter to the rhetoric in public and political debates, trend studies cannot confirm a general increase in youth NEET and temporary employment over time (Gebel and Giesecke, 2016). Instead, there are strong cyclical components, because youth are affected specifically by business cycle fluctuations (Dietrich, 2013; Lange et al, 2014). They were affected particularly during crises such as the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent debt and Eurozone crises (Choudhry et al, 2012; Marques and Hörisch, 2020). Such crises are expected to have a potentially detrimental effect on the future of these young people in the form of ‘scar effects’ (Unt and Täht, 2020). Indeed, concerns have been raised as to whether the so-called Great Recession has produced a ‘lost generation’ of young people (Hur, 2018).

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Most previous research in this area has addressed the drivers of youth job insecurity and especially youth unemployment. Gathering and implementing knowledge to prevent youth unemployment and support youth pathways out of temporary jobs is a highly relevant research activity. Moreover, there is also an urgent need to understand the consequences of such individual-level labour market insecurities, because unemployment along with extended periods of temporary employment, including a chain of mini-jobs, are a widespread phenomenon among youth. Likewise, policies need to be evaluated not only in terms of their ability to tackle youth labour market vulnerability per se, but also regarding the role these policies play in mitigating the consequences of labour market insecurity on other dimensions of young people’s lives. This book extends the limited amount of previous European comparative research in this field (see, for example, Blossfeld et al, 2005; Gallie, 2013; Vossemer et al, 2018; Stasiowski and Kłobuszewska, 2018; Högberg et al, 2019a, 2019b; Hvinden et al, 2019; Täht et al, 2020).The chapters of this book do not follow the same line of analysis for all countries, but take more of a comparative approach providing systematic in-depth insights into the different consequences of individual-level labour market insecurities in Europe for the risks of social exclusion of youth. Starting from a shared multilevel theoretical model, the book approaches this research topic empirically from a multimethod and European comparative perspective. The aim is to promote comparative qualitative research by adding to the almost non-existent qualitative literature on young people’s own perceptions of labour market insecurity from a comparative perspective.

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