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Negotiating early job-insecurity and labour market exclusion in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEGOTIATE (Negotiating early job-insecurity and labour market exclusion in Europe)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2018-02-28

The H2020 Young Society project NEGOTIATE - Overcoming Early Job Insecurity in Europe - investigates how to improve the job prospects of young people in Europe. Precarity and joblessness are still widespread for youth in many European countries. Youth with limited skills, those from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities are especially disadvantaged, despite policy initiatives at European Union (EU) and national levels to improve their situation. Young women tend to be more vulnerable in the labour market than young men. Finally, those affected by early job insecurity are likely to experience long-term scarring effects, including poorer employment prospects and reduced well-being. Labour market marginalisation may result in stigma, welfare dependence and diminished self-esteem.

This reality calls for a reassessment of the policies related to early job insecurity in Europe. Governments must rethink their approaches to the problems of inclusion in the labour market, taking into account the structural constraints that shape early job insecurity across Europe and young people’s ability to overcome these constraints.

NEGOTIATE aims to provide gender-sensitive, comparative knowledge about the short- and long-term consequences of early job insecurity while considering how young people’s agency may mediate such consequences. In particular, NEGOTIATE seeks to:

• analyse how adverse labour market conditions affect young adults’ capacity for active agency on the path to adulthood;
• examine how young adults perceive their job prospects and the ways in which they are (or have been) seeking to find a stable, suitable job;
• map the diverse social contexts in which young people in Europe form their work expectations, negotiate labour market integration and transition to adulthood;
• improve the understanding of the mechanisms leading to variations in the consequences of early job insecurity across Europe;
• gain comparative knowledge about the long-term consequences of young people’s job insecurity through analyses of the lives of older birth cohorts;
• provide insights into employer evaluations and risk assessments of young job applicants across Europe;
• deliver knowledge about the conditions under which early job insecurity has the least adverse outcomes for subjective and objective well-being;
• assess the coordination of policies to strengthen young people’s agency in labour market transitions and integrate the horizontal and vertical dimensions of coordination in European multilevel governance;
• inform the public and facilitate learning about factors that foster societal resilience at national and European levels; and
• foster learning to enable the development of more effective policies to prevent and mitigate the adverse short- and long-term effects of early job insecurity across Europe.
NEGOTIATE investigates how young people’s agency interacts with structural conditions in a multilevel governance system, as well as how authorities at European, national and subnational levels ensure that these conditions support young people’s efforts to find employment. Conceptually, the project’s innovation lies in its use of four key concepts: resilience, capability, active agency and negotiation. These provide a lens through which to examine the individual and societal mechanisms that underpin specific circumstances of early job insecurity and its long-term effects.

To achieve its objectives, NEGOTIATE combines a variety of methodological approaches: comparative life course interviews with people from three birth cohorts, survey experiments where employers in four countries are asked to rank job applicants for actual vacancies based on fictitious CVs (vignettes), and comprehensive quantitative analysis of cross-national survey data. The project proceeds in three steps: assessment of early job insecurity as a theoretical challenge, collection and interpretation of primary and secondary data, and synthesis of findings across the project’s thematic work packages.

The following are some of NEGOTIATE’s main findings and recommendations:

• Entering the labour market during an economic downturn leads to scarring, with varying effects based on education and gender. When designing labour market policies, governments must focus more on trajectories than on single jobs. The accumulation of insecurity over time explains why some groups are more at risk of scarring than
others.
• Policymakers must distinguish between the effects of different forms of early job insecurity. Work in deskilling jobs, frequent job changes or even participation in active labour market policies (ALMPs) can be detrimental to a young worker’s professional career. Measures focusing on quick labour market reintegration without considering job
quality may reduce employability for unemployed youth. Both “skill-building first” and “work-first” strategies may have an ambiguous or even negative impact on the long-term job prospects of young people (depending on the national context).
• Strong and persistent differences in national levels of job insecurity for youth across Europe challenge the European Employment Strategy and European solidarity. Young people turn to immigration to cope with poor job prospects in their home country, which results in uncertain gains for long-term employment prospects.

The project results are integrated into two edited volumes (twenty-two chapters) and have formed the basis of sixteen scientific articles thus far.
NEGOTIATE investigates the links between macro- and micro-level consequences of early job insecurity based on an innovative use of concepts, new methods (employer vignette study and comparative interviews) and existing survey data. Below we are summing up the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project.

• Employment measures offered by public employment services should be based on individual assessments, taking into account prior skills and job experience, as well as the country’s labour market.
• European countries are not moving towards a single European transition regime (a similar mix of educational, training, labour market, employment protection and unemployment income policies). The EU should address the unrealised potential for learning and the exchange of best practices among member states in the context of the
European Employment Strategy.
• The EU should encourage monitoring of labour market developments and stricter evaluation of the effectiveness and sustainability of the Youth Guarantee and other instruments.
• While continuing to support the Youth Guarantee, the EU should use financial instruments to promote a better balance between supply- and demand-oriented measures.
• Both the EU and member states should recalibrate cash transfers and services that support young people’s efforts to improve their skills and job prospects. Public agencies should coordinate their approach with civil society organisations to encourage young people’s agency and listen to their views when developing policies.
• The integration of social partners and other stakeholders into the design and monitoring of youth employment measures and in vocational education and training systems is crucial to meet the needs of the European economy and safeguard the quality of work and education.