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European countries vary widely in their education and training (ET) systems, the nature of the linkage between ET and labour markets (LM), in their socio-demographic and economic circumstances, and in the factors and processes involved in initial education to labour market transitions. Substantial recent growth has occurred in the level of education/training among labour market entrants, with some evidence of change in the returns to different levels of education, as well as in the nature of educational underachievement and its relationship to economic and social exclusion. Different European states have also varied in their policy reactions to increasing youth unemployment and secular change in their economies, with the result that original national differences in ET/LM institutional arrangements have also changed over time. Although a number of smaller scale comparative European studies have been carried out on these issues, no comprehensive comparative research work exists on the nature, characteristics and consequences of the main institutional differences amongst European societies in their education to work transitions. The main aim of our research is to fill this gap.

The project has the following 5 objectives:

1. To develop a more satisfactory and comprehensive theoretical/conceptual framework of the varying ET, LM institutional arrangements and relationships in European countries, and of the varying factors influencing success, or failure, in transitions in the different European systems: resulting in a set of organising hypotheses to guide the analyses.
2. To develop an integrated cross-national data set on school to work transitions in four European countries (France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland-UK) over the 1980s and early 1990s which (a) have comprehensive data sets on these issues, and (b) are exemplars of the main national differences in ET and LM systems.

3. To carry out detailed comparative data analyses on the characteristics and consequences of institutional similarities and differences in ET and LM systems, and their varying inter-linkages in the different countries: to test the main hypotheses and attempt to explain the commonalities and differences in the factors affecting success and failure in ET and labour market integration in the different countries.

4. To complement this set of analyses by stock and flow analyses on ET and LM relationships amongst the younger age groups in all EU countries using the Labour Force Surveys and other EU wide data sources.

5. To develop a model framework for comparative surveys and research on transitions in all EU countries, which will both facilitate the harmonisation of existing and future such national surveys.

The study is to be carried out by leading European research centres who carry out national and comparative research on these issues - combining and utilising to the maximum the national data sets and researcher experience in these centres. In addition the research team will continue to work closely with OECD on its comparative thematic review of transitions from initial education to working life in a number of European and other OECD countries.

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