Vocational Education and Training in Times of Economic Crisis

Volume 24 of the series Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Issues, Concerns and Prospects pp 127-148


Apprenticeship Policies Coping with the Crisis: A Comparison of Austria with Germany and Switzerland

  • Lorenz LassniggAffiliated withInstitute for Advanced Studies (IHS) Email author 

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The paper asks how the three countries have retained their low level of youth unemployment through the crisis. An institutional approach is taken, criticizing simplistic ideas on how collective skills systems manage the low level of youth unemployment. The analysis starts with Austria, and compares this experience to the other cases. Comparative statistics are used to describe the way of the three countries through the time period 2004 to 2012. In Austria a main component of managing the low level of youth unemployment is a very strong tradition of youth labour market policy (LMP); the apprenticeship system itself has also been supported quite strongly by LMP for decades. Thus, not the apprenticeship system itself, but rather the employment status of apprentices that has included them into social security and thus into LMP seems the main reason of retaining the low level of youth unemployment. The comparison takes three steps: First the features of the apprenticeship (or ‘dual’ or ‘trial’) systems are analysed, showing that Austrian Vocational education and training (VET) is much more diverse with apprenticeship homogenously situated at the lower end; second OECD LMP statistics show a higher intensity and more concentration on apprentices in Austria, pointing to different patterns for explanation; third labour market figures and policies indicate a more severe situation in Germany, which was quite successfully brought down after the crisis. Overall, apprenticeship appears quite diverse, as are the policy approaches, and it is certainly not an ‘easy fix’ for problems on the youth labour market.