Youth and Work Transitions in Changing Social Landscapes

Helve, H. and Evans, K. (2013) Youth and Work Transitions in Changing Social Landscapes. London: Tufnell Press . ISBN 1872767583, 356pp., £17.90

The recent economic crises have presented new challenges for organizations and individuals globally, particularly for young people whose life chances now appear worse than those of their parents’ generation.  We have been privileged to edit a new international collection of research papers focusing on these challenges, whose Titan Gel publication has been marked by a LLAKES seminar at the Institute of Education in November 2013.

Wellbeing, leisure and personal relationships are often relegated to side issues to the main game of education and employment; their influence on education and employment patterns and decisions are often ignored. This book sets out to explore these flows of influence from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. A new generation of research studies is focusing on the ways in which young people respond to and cope with sudden downturns in employment opportunities and the changing pressures involved in decision-making about vocational and higher education. Economic downturn is not new and there is rich previous research on which to build. Research from the recessions of the 1930s has demonstrated long-term scarring effects that endure from generation to generation. Panel studies internationally are revealing the longer-term impacts of experiences rooted in the previous recessions.  But there are marked differences in the wider social context in which life and work navigations are being experienced in the aftermath of the latest financial crises. Through  longitudinal and panel studies of various kinds we can now examine changes in housing, family status and a wide range of personal and wellbeing factors which are crucial to ways in which young people navigate changes that can impact fundamentally on their life chances. We should also be probing young adults’ views on the social unrest that has erupted in many parts of Europe, while bringing these phenomena into global perspective by reflecting on, for example, the harsh realities of youth experiences in countries such as South Africa, where growth in inter- and intra-race inequality leaves the poor, even in wealthy provinces, locked out of the economy.

Bringing different disciplinary perspectives together presents chinese brush particular challenges. Foundations are laid for what we, as editors, hope will become a new interdisciplinary dialogue. In the concluding chapter, James Côte develops, from his overarching review of the contributions, a typology of personal and structural resources that helps in exploring the risks and benefits associated with the transitions to work for young adults with high and low ‘agentic’ resources as well as high and low economic or ‘structural’ resources. An important conclusion is that, while we must continue to identify structures that discriminate against people in harmful ways, structures are slow to change. In the meantime we need to learn how to help people ’penetrate’ structures that might otherwise constitute barriers for them.  These considerations raise further questions about exactly what it is young people are transitioning ‘through’ and ‘to’, including a questioning of the concept of transition itself and of ‘adulthood’ as the supposed destination. This in turn calls for much greater attention to what today’s younger generation feel they belong to and are becoming, as well as policies that understand better both the personal and structural resources needed by young people of all economic backgrounds if they are to manage their life courses under late-modern conditions.

The ideas for Youth and Work Transitions in Changing Social Director Web Landscapes originated in two seminars of Finnish and English
researchers held at the House of Sciences and Letters at Helsinki in October 2009 and at the Finnish Institute in London in October 2010. The contributors are affiliated to major research programmes in Finland and UK and, through the International Sociological Research Association RC 34, to research groups exploring young people’s education, work and wellbeing around the world, in Canada, South Africa, the Caribbean, India, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand and USA.