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Mapping mobility – pathways, institutions and structural effects of youth mobility in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MOVE (Mapping mobility – pathways, institutions and structural effects of youth mobility in Europe)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2018-04-30

The intent of the project MOVE “Mapping mobility – pathways, institutions and structural effects of youth mobility in Europe” is to provide a research-informed contribution towards improving the mobility of young people (aged 18-29) and to reduce negative impacts of mobility by identifying good practices, thus fostering sustainable development and wellbeing. The main research question is how the mobility of young people can be ‘good’, both for socio-economic and individual development, and what factors foster or hinder this beneficial mobility.

A mixed-method research design was conducted in six European countries: Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania and Spain, focusing on six mobility types:
- pupils’ exchange,
- student mobility (higher education),
- mobility for vocational education and training,
- international volunteering,
- employment mobility,
- entrepreneurship mobility.
MOVE was based on a multi-level, transdisciplinary research design. Firstly, the macro level was examined by analysing social and economic data at a national and regional level. Following, our own analyses - qualitative interviews and a quantitative survey - were compiled. On the micro level, young people’s achievement of agency was the main focus. On the meso level, the organizational/institutional context of the mobility type within the respective (inter)national legal regulatory framework was taken into consideration.

A macro-database on youth mobility (here: those aged 15 - 29) and related socio-economic indicators was initially compiled, based primarily on publicly available data from EUROSTAT, OECD, UN, and the World Bank. This integrated, unique database includes macro-data from EU-28 and 3 EFTA (CH, IS, NO) countries, and covers a period of 10 years (2004-2013). By focusing on the creation and exploitation of human capital on the basis of youth mobility macro-indicators, a country-typology was created that distinguishes four country types: (1) mobility promoters: prone to losing their skilled workforce; (2) mobility utilisers: produce and make use of human capital; (3) mobility fallers: educate youth but cannot retain them; (4) mobility beneficiaries: make use of and integrate the highly skilled into their economic and societal structures.

The second data source comprised qualitative interviews conducted with young people from six mobility types (N=206), complemented by insights from youth mobility experts (N=40). The data collection took place from January to December 2016. Each mobility type was examined in two countries (cross-country comparison) and each country focused on two mobility types (cross-field comparison). The interview guide covered: mobility experiences (circumstances before/during stay abroad), relationships, hindering and fostering factors and evaluation/situation after the stay abroad. From the qualitative material, six patterns emerged: (1) peer relationships are the main context in which youth mobility is bred, induced or hampered; (2) mobility is a learning process, framed as “doing something else”, mobility itself is insufficient, requiring enhancement through additional processes/activities; (3) mobility contexts are not only personal (peers and/or family) but always interwoven with forms of institutionalization such as education and work; (4) mobility occurs mainly where youth become members of organisations (membership) in order to gain access to funding, information and guidance; (5) youth connect their mobility to the wish to become independent; (6) youth connect their mobility and leave home with the wish to break out. Youth mobility is to be seen as a form of initiation, a rite of passage into aspects of society (i.e. education, work and family); in mobility young people experience practices that introduce them to bureaucratic structures/procedures, to norms and practices of at work, etc..

The third data source was an online survey (N=8,706: a merged dataset from a panel sample of 5,499, and a snowball sample, only for mobiles, of 3,207) conducted in order to explore who the mobile youth population are and why some are not mobile, and to address the mobility-fostering and -hindering factors, the social embeddedness and social background of (non-)mobile youth. The data was collected from November 2016 to February 2017. The results show that 74.7% of young respondents evaluate their mobility experiences positively and 91.3% report themselves as the major influence in the decision to become mobile. The main mobility motivations are: to learn or improve languages (46.3%); previous knowledge of a language (33%), considered to be an advantage for mobility; to improve working conditions (31.2%); to improve the opportunities for personal and professional development (28.7%). The most useful sources of information are informal sources, such as internet search engines (48.5%) or friends (35.7%); followed by advice from teachers/tutors (32.1%). In regard to future plans, 35.4% of mobile respondents express doubts about returning to their country of origin, while non-mobiles consider that it is unlikely that they will move to another country or region.

Triangulating the data sources, the following generalisations can be made:
- European countries differ regarding (pre)conditions to youth mobility, which, in turn, could lead to inequalities in individual access to mobility and mobility outcomes,
- hindering factors and motivations differ between mobility types, as they follow different logics: the main differences are between work-related and education-related mobilities (i.e. student, pupil and VET mobility),
- the approach of youth to mobility differs depending on biographical and institutional embeddedness; young people change their agentic strategies as they respond to new situations,
- social networks play an important role in mobility, both as a fostering and hindering factor.
By addressing youth mobility from a micro, meso and macro perspective, as well as taking the agency of young people into account, MOVE offers a comprehensive and detailed picture of youth mobility in Europe. The perspective from different mobility types and various country settings extends beyond cursory results from one case study alone and provides good practices and policy recommendations based on qualitative and quantitative evidence.

MOVE’s results are a source for:
- research-informed recommendations for interventions in order to facilitate and improve the institutional, legal and programmatic frameworks of mobility with regard to different forms and types of mobility as well as to the conditions/constrains of mobility for young people in Europe,
- consultation and expertise to youth organisations and youth workers.

MOVE’s main results and recommendation ( are available for the broader public as:
- policy briefs (publicly available in Autumn 2018),
- infographics,
- an animated film.

MOVE has created two scientific use files (SUF):
- MOVE-SUF1 containing macro-data from 31 EU/EFTA countries, can be used as background information for any projects dealing with the European countries (available at
- MOVE-SUF2 based on the quantitative survey and including responses from young people, both with and without mobility experience(s); it offers a unique possibility to do cross-country and cross-types comparison on different mobility types (publicly available from May 2019).