Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 13 items for

  • Author or Editor: John Bynner x
Clear All Modify Search
Identities and Inequalities in an Unravelling Europe

In an age when the next generation have worse prospects than those of their parents, this book appraises the challenges young people face resulting from the instability of their lives.

Based on youth experience of education, employment and political participation in England and Germany, the book examines the impact of digitalisation in the context of rising inequality, accelerating technological transformation, fragile European institutions, growing nationalism and mental and economic stress arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The insights gained point to young peoples’ agency as central to acquiring the skills and resources needed to shape their future in the digital society.

Full Access
Authors: Ingrid Schoon and John Bynner

This paper reviews evidence on young people in Europe and the US making the transition from school-to-work before and after the 2008 Great Recession. Taking a macro-level perspective, similarities and differences in education and employment experiences across different European countries are described, considering the role of different institutional support systems in ‘scaffolding’ young people's transitions to independence. It is argued that the 2008 financial crisis brought with it reduced employment opportunities for young people and accelerated pre-existing trends towards prolonged education participation and precarious employment. There are, however, considerable variations across different countries, highlighting the role of social institutions in supporting young people during the school-to-work transition. Transition systems that created bridges between education and employment are associated with lower national levels of youth unemployment, while young people coming of age in less-protective transition regimes suffered highest levels of youth unemployment, high levels of temporary employment and not being in education, employment or training (NEET).

Full Access
Authors: Pat Davies and John Bynner

The concepts of ‘learning society’ and ‘lifelong learning’ appear in a number of guises in the literature and in policy pronouncements (Coffield, 1999). Our project was concerned with policy and practice: the strategies to bring about a learning society in the wider national sense and to develop a learning culture at the level of organisations, groups and individuals. We focused on a particular feature – credit-based learning – and its role in the development of learning cultures at local level.

National policy statements about the Learning Society offer numerous visions of lifelong learning as part of a ‘learning culture’. The government’s own vision of lifelong learning is set out in the White Paper, Learning to Succeed:

Lifelong learning can enable people to play a full part in developing their talent, the potential of their family, and the capacity of the community in which they live and work. It can and must nurture a love for learning. This will ensure the means by which our economy can make a successful transition from the industries and services of the past, to the knowledge and information economy of the future. It also contributes to sustaining a civilised and cohesive society, in which people develop as active citizens and in which generational disadvantage can be overcome. (DfEE, 1999, p 1)

The underpinning of such lifelong learning by the development of a ‘learning culture’ is elaborated in the reports of the advisory group under the chairmanship of Bob Fryer (1997, 1999). Such a lifelong learning culture (Fryer, 1997) would be characterised by:

Full Access

Many political and economic decisions of the European Union are affecting young people’s living and learning circumstances in all member countries, though not in the UK after Brexit. Therefore, this chapter outlines the basic components of the European Union and the strategies of the European Commission for improving the living conditions and prospects of young people. Since their attitudes towards the EU and its institutions determine how the younger generation will become active in supporting and criticising its policies, we also look at young people’s perception of the EU and the effects of its youth policy, with a focus on the UK and Germany.

The EU provides a single market with a free exchange of goods, services, capital and people. The EU has been a work in progress, without a master plan: From its inauguration as the ‘Economic Community’ in a ‘common market’ 60 years ago with the Treaty of Rome, its members grew from six (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) to 28 states in 2018; the UK (and Ireland and Denmark) joined in 1973. The current European governance system with a multilevel structure was established by the Maastricht (NL) Treaty in 1992. A common currency, the euro, replaced 12 (of 28) national currencies in 2002. The euro is supervised by the European Central Bank, which regulates the monetary policy.

The institutional setting of the EU consists of two legislative bodies: the European Parliament (in Strasbourg, France), representing the member states’ citizens, and the European Council (in Brussels, Belgium) of the heads of state, representing the member states’ governments.

Full Access

‘How do we ensure that the digital economy doesn’t leave people behind?’ To answer this question posed by Mathew Taylor and Payal Dalal (2019) of Britain’s Royal Society of Arts requires much deeper consideration than has been the case for societal transformations of this kind in the past. As we shall see, ‘The Internet of Everything’ produces change at an accelerating rate in every domain of human activity, of which the most problematic, in terms of meeting youth transition needs, is education. At the most basic level, as the previous chapter showed, prior to the influx of digitalisation, schooling supplied, at least in principle, the knowledge and skills needed to lay the foundations for later participation in vocational training, the labour market and citizenship.

With the dramatic changes in the organisation of the labour market from the 1970s onwards – now confronted by the challenges of digitalisation and ever-accelerating technological change – transformation reaches another level of complexity. The far-reaching educational consequences have been evident for some time, but until the 2007/08 banking crisis, and the recession that followed, most of these effects on young people’s prospects were barely recognised (Schoon and Bynner, 2019). The crisis economy, marked by 12 years of post-2008 banking collapse and austerity, was characterised by lack of stability and insecurity. Short-term and zero-hour contracts, ‘casual’ jobs and unemployment replaced secure positions across whole swathes of the labour market. The consequence in Britain was a massive rise in social and economic inequality and the beginnings of the case not only for lifelong income support but universal lifelong learning (Bynner, 2017).

Full Access

The facts and issues regarding youth prospects in the digital society that we presented and discussed in this book are embedded in economic, cultural and social upheavals with enormous consequences for young people’s lives. The first two decades of the 21st century were a period characterised by five major societal transformations affecting youth transitions: (1) the spread of neo-liberal economics and politics; (2) deregulation of labour markets and employment; (3) the digital revolution; (4) expansion of higher education; and (5) social media and associated lifestyles. These social, economic and cultural changes have been leading to a dissolution of traditional ways of life, including the decoupling of social classes, social disintegration and uncertainty among large segments of the population, combined with rising populism. They are now joined by more of a natural phenomenon than the conventional human adversary: (6) the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of which we discussed in Chapter 8 and return to here.

Fundamental changes in the public sphere are associated with this transformation. News media (newspapers and television) are losing ground to social media with a trend towards the spread of fake news, and of substituting emotions and opinions for knowledge. These changes document the ambivalent effects of digitalisation and globalisation, including worldwide trade, communication and travel versus new nationalism and tensions within societies and generations, brought about by fewer winners and more losers. These transformations have been leading to increasing contradictions. Responsibility and civic participation are expected of citizens, also young people, while bankers, business managers and some politician act irresponsibly – especially those pursuing a philosophy of neo-liberalism.

Full Access

The form families take, and their internal organisation, have been changing in the process of modernisation. Formal marriage has increasingly given way to cohabitation as the basis of partnership and having children, while more recently the marriage contract has been extended to same-sex couples of either gender to enable them to formalise their relationships.

In contrast, the trend in the other direction has been the rise of singlehood. Increasing numbers of adults in a partnership with or without children or living alone are resisting the idea of formal or informal partnership in favour of staying single. These self-determined ‘singletons’ are joined by the growing proportion of others, who – as a consequence of marital or partnership breakdown, in which children are involved – become single parents.

Nevertheless, despite the importance of these latter family formations, in policy terms there is still, albeit implicitly, a broad consensus, reinforced judicially and through the tax and benefits system of the desirability of formal marriage and children as the basis of family life. The commitment to it of a substantial section of the adult population remains strong.

Family types define the various contexts in which children of the current era grew up and stayed in, or left, the family home. As we have seen, since the 1980s there has been a postponement of leaving home, forming continuing partnerships, getting married and having children. At its simplest level this points to increasing stress laid on family functioning largely borne by parents.

Full Access

Youth has always been regarded as a period of transition from childhood to adulthood with a wide variation in duration and social support and control by family, neighbourhood, education providers and the state. Its defining institution is the education system, its experiential space is the peer group, fun and games, and more recently social media. We understand transitions as life course events in time and social space. On their path to adulthood young women and young men are confronted with many road signs (norms and regulations) and signals (risks and opportunities) that command attention and individual responses. In view of the multiple institutional demands of education and work and the informal expectations in their family and social networks, adolescents and young adults must deal with the challenge of constructing a coherent self (see Chapter 2).

Life course theory states that transitions imply a duality of social structure and individual agency in the context of social pathways (Heinz, 2009b). Their timing and sequencing, direction and outcome are embedded in structural conditions – the economy, the labour market, and family social background and institutional arrangements, educational and welfare systems. Variations are due to agency, for example individual characteristics – competences, motivation, identity and life goals. Transitions unfold via turning points: entering and leaving school, leaving home, graduating, finding a job, forming a partnership, becoming a parent. The timing and duration of such life course events have become less standardised in recent decades. Today the transition to adulthood implies a period of young adulthood and spans the age between 18 (maturity) and 30 (average age of independent living).

Full Access

Much is written about the conflict between generations. Such tensions are at their strongest in the teens when the parental controls of childhood give way to the freedoms of youth while, at the same time, holding onto the sentiments of respect and dependency that children feel for their parents. Parent–child relationships tend to become more relaxed in young adulthood, when the transition from education to work defines this phase of the life course and parents’ emotional and material support is called for.

A continuing theme of family relationships is what the future will offer for young people and this is where we are witnessing unparalleled technologically driven and political change in which population movement, neo-nationalism and widening inequality are major features. Thus, the recession arising from the 2007/08 global banking crisis is just the most recent example of disrupted capitalist economies, bailed out by government funding, of which young people leaving education can bear the brunt. What worked for their parents in the transition to adulthood, including finding job opportunities, building a career and forming a family, is unlikely to work in the same way for them. The choices they must make are laden with risk and uncertainty in a way that was unknown until relatively recently. Most recently COVID-19 has created societies in standstill mode with restrictions in all spheres of everyday life, presenting a completely new challenge for young and old.

The situation is also compounded by the fact that even before the coronavirus pandemic broke out many features of modern society were already changing at high speed, especially in the labour market as the consequence of digitalisation.

Full Access

We turn now to probably the biggest challenge of our time, the destructive force of COVID-19, of which the long-term implications for young people may turn out to be the most significant. Of course, we have no means of knowing how long the pandemic will last, including the possibility of its return or another virus of even greater virulence. All we can be sure of is that a shadow has been cast over the generation most directly affected in terms of life chances, for which significant investment will be needed to put in place the necessary safeguards to protect young people’s futures.

In the best case scenario the virus effects are a temporary phenomenon for which only a handful of young people have been damaged by the experience. In the worst case the whole generation is significantly affected, of which those in the process of leaving school, facing examinations and seeking work risk losing most. At the same time, to take a more optimistic view, with analogies from the post-World War II period, it is also possible that the shakeup brought about by the pandemic will trigger new thinking and practice in education and other public services. Long-term critics of the status quo have an unexpected opportunity to be heard.

But such development is critically dependent on ensuring that change moves in liberating and progressive rather than regressive directions; that is to say, matching the digitalisation transformation that preceded COVID-19. Surprisingly, and encouragingly, public opinion polls in both the UK and Germany appeared to favour not returning to ‘things as they were’.

Full Access