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  • Author or Editor: Marge Unt x
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Several societal changes such as increased global competition and the restructuring of national economies have hit young generations more severely than older cohorts (Blossfeld et al, 2008). Furthermore, in recent decades, youth transitions have become not only considerably prolonged but also de-standardised, leading scholars to characterise these as yo-yo transitions (Walther, 2006). The latter means that young people swing back and forth between different states such as educational programmes and work, and changes in one area may be accompanied by setbacks in others such as moving back into the parental home due to losing one’s job (Stauber and Walther, 2006). The labour market situation for recent school leavers was further weakened by the 2008 economic crisis in the majority of European countries (except Germany) (Rokicka et al, 2015). At the same time, work is still considered to serve as a central component of identity as well as simply providing income, and unemployment can have devastating consequences for people’s psychological well-being and their ability to relate to others (Gallie, 2013; see also Chapter 6 in this volume).

Furthermore, the last 20 years have seen major shifts in welfare state approaches to labour market policies emphasising the growing responsibility of people to make themselves ‘employable’ (de Graaf and Maier, 2017). Thus, from one perspective, there is more pressure on the unemployed; but at the same time, the risk of unemployment is increasing due to volatile labour markets. The new social investment state promises that youth will be taken more seriously in welfare state studies and policies (Otto et al, 2015).

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The Multifaceted Consequences of Labour Market Insecurity

EPDF and EPUB available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

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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Economic deprivation and poverty are often related to what has increasingly been referred to as multiple disadvantage (Kieselbach et al, 2001; Berthoud, 2003; McDonald and Marston, 2005). This could be described as a bidirectional relationship in which deprivation during early socialisation leads, for example, to early school leaving and subsequently to unemployment, whereas unemployment (Cantó-Sanchéz and Mercader-Prats, 1999) or labour market insecurity (Pavis et al, 2000; Clasen and Goerne, 2011) increase the risk of economic deprivation and poverty among youth. The latter risk is higher when access to welfare is restricted or non-existent (Saltkjel and Malmberg-Heimonen, 2017) and when the family of origin is, for whatever reason, unable to support its offspring.

Previous studies on youth poverty (Aassve et al, 2006, 2013; Scarpetta et al, 2010) have pointed out various risk factors for material deprivation among youth, and a central one of these is unemployment. Most studies find that, on average, early youth unemployment has serious negative effects on incomes: young adults experiencing labour market exclusion face a significantly higher risk of poverty and material deprivation (Aassve et al, 2006; Rokicka and Kłobuszewska, 2016). Moreover, as well as the short-term effect, young adults experiencing unemployment in their early careers may become ‘scarred’ with respect to their future careers and face issues such as increased risk of unemployment or reduced earnings (see for example Arulampalam, 2001; Steijn et al, 2006; Schmillen and Umkehrer, 2013).

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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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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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