Youth employment and job quality: a European overview

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Youth employment and job quality: a European overview

Improving the quantity and quality of jobs is a major political challenge in Europe. Céreq researchers questioned how the 15-24 year olds were affected during the crisis. How has the quality of their jobs evolved in the different Member States?

Answering these questions is one of the challenges of an interdisciplinary research conducted as part of the European project SocIEtY2 based on the Capability Approach3. This method emphasizes the actual freedom individuals enjoy in choosing the work they have reason to value. To make it operational, a synthetic index of poor job quality was constructed (job quality is considered as poor because it is unfavourable to the development of capabilities)4. The Capability-Unfriendly Job Index includes the following five dimensions:  

  •  Involuntary temporary job;
  •  Involuntary part-time job;
  • Job offering a volume of hours' work lower than the desired volume;
  • Job requiring additional hours' work that are assumed to be involuntary because they are unpaid and not compensated for;
  • Search for alternative job or an additional job while in the employment.

Their analyses are based on the European survey on Labour Force. The findings confirm how sensitive the labour market situation of 15-24 year olds was to economic fluctuations:as the crisis deepened, youth unemployment in particular raced out of control across Europe. In addition, the analysis carried out over the 2006-2012 period reveals that the recession has been accompanied by a deterioration in job quality. The evolution of the unemployment rate is therefore correlated with the deterioration in job quality. The quantity and quality of employment did not evolve in opposite directions but rather in conjunction with each other


The survey reveals a general deterioration in job quality between 2006 and 2012. However, situations differ from country to country. For instance, the Capability-Undriendly Job Index increased by 40% in the United Kingdom and Spain. Nevertheless, the drivers of this deterioration differ. British young people are more pushed towards both involuntary temporary jobs (x 1.8) and involuntary part-time jobs (x 2.4). The young Spaniards are especially more pushed towards involuntary part-time jobs (x 3.3), whereas unvoluntary temporary employment increased slightly (x 1.2).


Contact (Céreq): Josiane Vero


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Notes :

1) At the Special European Council held in the year 2000, the member states drew up the so-called Lisbon strategy, which aimed to create more and better jobs by 2010.

2) The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 320136. For further information, please refer to the SocIEtY research programme's website:

 3) The Capability Approach pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, puts the focus on the extent of the individuals "real freedom to lead the life they have reason to value".. This approach has contributed to renew the debates worldwide on inequality and poverty (Sen, 1992), human development (1999) and social justice (2009). Its influence reaches far beyond academic audiences. It has shaped the work of the United Nations Development Program and its human development index (United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 2015), and the most recent Poverty and Wealth Reports by the German Government (Arndt and Volkert, 2011), not to mention the search for alternative GDP measures initiated by France's President Sarkozy (Stiglitz et al., 2009).

Although originally conceived for developing countries, the capability approach is now used to address a whole range of issues in post-industrial countries as well, such as gender (Nussbaum, 1999; Robeyns, 2008, 2010), education (Saito, 2003; Otto and Ziegler, 2010: Otto et al. 2015) and poverty (Schokkaert and Van Ootegem, 1990; Brandolini and D'Alessio, 1998; Vero, 2006; Chiappero-Martinetti and Moroni, 2007). Over the last decade, it has also been progressively extended to the study of work and employment. First adopted in this area as a yardstick against which to assess European labour market policies (Salais and Villeneuve, 2004; Formation Emploi, 2007), it has subsequently proved a robust tool for studying flexicurity (Vielle, P., & Bonvin, J.-M. 2008; Verd and Vero, 2011; Lehweß-Litzmann R. 2014) and activation policies (Bonvin and Orton, 2009;, Lambert et al. 2015), New Public Management indicators (Salais, 2006; Vero et al., 2012) and corporate policies (Zimmermann, 2004, 2011; Abbateccola et al., 2012, Subramanian, et al.2013; Lambert et al. 2012; Sigot and Vero 2014).