Transitions to adulthood in the context of economic crisis

Young Woman Sitting In Playground

The fourth NEGOTIATE policy brief focuses on the impact of the Great Recession in Europe.

Our researchers have explored the variability of unemployment and other employment insecurity indicators across countries and regions to identify patterns of school enrollment and fertility.

The main finding is that young Europeans between 16 and 29 years old are more likely to enroll in education when the labour market is dealing with the effects of a recession. However, boys and girls in households at the lowest end of the income distribution are significantly less likely than their richer counterparts to be enrolled in education, especially tertiary education during the financial crisis.

Job insecurity cannot unequivocally be related to fertility or choosing to become a parent. There appears to be a large heterogeneity among the different age groups, situations and countries. Only unemployment for males between the ages of 25 and 34 years have negative effect on their fertility decisions. There is a distinctive pattern between those who manage to convert their initial conditions by undertaking different actions and improving their prospects for education, employment and family formation, and those who do not manage to improve their prospects.

Within the two groups of patterns, we identified subgroups based on different mechanisms that have a significant role for (non) realisation of goals. Poverty and lack of income are the most important aspects causing marginalisation and social exclusion of young people, especially when they do not have networks coming to their aid to find work and when little or no support is given by civic organisations and state institutions.

Regarding gendered labour marker outcomes, women face considerable more difficulties when it comes to seeking satisfying employment. Especially for single parents the lack of institutional support can lead to extreme job insecurity and difficulties when raising children. It’s only the Norwegian interviewees that do not consider young children or care responsibilities as being a hindrance to their participation in the labour market.

Among the youngest interviewed women they asses themselves as being at a lower social position than their mothers, and that it is difficult to start a family at an early age while enjoying the security of a guaranteed permanent working contract and wage. There are also cases of upward social mobility where daughters received a higher level of education than their mothers.

Policy recommendations

Viewed from the perspective of young European the following policy recommendations are shaped;

  • Increase the possibilties for skills training and lifelong learning;
  • Increase the state support for young parents;
  • Increase the opportunities for active agency for young people;
  • Elaborate work-family policies;
  • Highlight and motivate the significant role of employers;
  • And take into account the interrelation between different aspects of well-being.

In addition, volunteering emerges as good opportunity for involving young people in the labour market increasing their social embeddedness and decreasing the risk of marginalization and social inclusion.

The analysis is based on public survey data from seven counties: EU-Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), the EU-Labour Force Survey (LFS) and several waves of the Eurobarometer Survey on ‘Young people and drugs’. In addition, they also collected qualitative data through the 209 semi-structured life-course interviews with women and men belonging to three birth cohorts (1950-55, 1970-75, 1990-95) in seven EU countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Download the policy brief: Negotiate Policy Brief NO4.2_Transitions to adulthood in the context of economic crisis (pdf)