Precarious work and high-skilled youth in Europe

Lodovici M S, Semanaza R (eds) |   | European Commission | Sep 2012

Trapped or flexible? Risk transitions and missing policies for young highly-skilled workers in Europe was a research project funded by the European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion.

Precarious workers occupy a grey area where basic employment and social protection rights are often significantly reduced, giving rise to a situation of uncertainty in all spheres of life.

This project aimed to emphasise not only the occupational conditions of precarious workers, but - in a broader sense - the influence of a situation of uncertainty on crucial choices in the private lives of young Europeans.

Young people are in fact far more likely than other groups to be employed in precarious and insecure jobs, regardless of their education and skills. The effects of precarious employment can be particularly negative and persistent for young workers as problematic early experiences of transitions into work are likely to be associated with a general reduction in long-term life chances (the so called "scarring effect").

The increasing diffusion of precarious jobs among young people, including highly educated ones, also represents a social cost as the waste of young highly educated human resources reduces growth perspectives, while extending the poverty risks and the income inequalities within and between generations, with high budget costs related to lower fiscal revenues and higher social expenditures.

This research focused on the risks faced by high-skilled workers of becoming unemployed or being forced to accept less qualified jobs and the ways to encourage the conversion of precarious work into work with rights.

The research activities included:*

  • A comparative analysis of the employment conditions of young highly skilled workers in the EU27 Member States.
  • An assessment of the policies adopted in European countries to support the employability of young workers and to extend their access to social protection.
  • Three in-depth country case studies (Italy, Spain and the UK) for a better understanding of the causes of differences and similarities in the labour market conditions of young skilled people.

The report can be purchased from Franco Angeli through the link below.