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Introduction

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Part of the SpringerBriefs in Economics book series (BRIEFSECONOMICS)

Abstract

The school- or university to-work transition is a long dark tunnel around the world, although national differences are striking: in Germany, young people are no worse off than their adult counterparts, while in Southern European and Eastern-European countries they fare 3 through 4 times worse. The current economic and financial crisis has further worsened the condition of young people in many, but not all advanced economies. This work points to the youth experience gap as a key concept that provides the basis for an interpretative framework to explain the meager youth employment opportunities and earnings, but also national differences in youth labor market outcomes. Observers are divided as to the optimal design of youth employment policy. Liberalist economists believe that the market itself should address the youth disadvantage by allowing firms to pay a lower than market clearing entry wage for young people which should be proportional to their lower human capital and productivity. More flexible labor markets should also guarantee greater labor turnover, including temporary work, so as to allow young people to move from one job to the next until they accumulate the work experience they need to become more employable and find the right career. In contrast, other economists criticise entry flexibility and temporary work, claiming that the former type helps only the most skilled and motivated target groups; while the latter only allows young people to gather generic, not job-specific work experience. The pars construens is a policy mix, whereas labor flexibility goes together with more employment stability according to the flexicurity objective; while the educational and training system should be more integrated with the labor market so as to help young people build their competences before completing their educational career and starting to search for a job. OECD countries dramatically differ in their strategies to address the youth experience gap, which remains high even in a time of ever increasing education attainment. To help young people fill in the gap and ease the school-to-work transition, every OECD country provides its own mix of policy instruments, including different degrees and types of labor market flexibility, of educational and training systems, of passive income support schemes and fiscal incentives. Five different country groups are detected whose outcomes in terms of youth unemployment are dramatically different: (a) the North-European; (b) the Continental European; (c) the Anglo-Saxon; (d) the South-European; (e) the New Member States. The Lisbon strategy and the European Youth Guarantee provide guidelines in line with the theoretical framework discussed here, but they are costly and hard to implement in those countries, such as the South and East European countries where labor market institutions, such as public and private employment agencies, are not as efficient as in Central and North European countries.

Keywords

Youth unemployment problem  Youth experience gap Youth employment policy Lisbon strategy European youth guarantee 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Palazzo MelziUniversity of Naples IISanta Maria Capua VetereItaly

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