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Operationalisation of the Capability Approach

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Facing Trajectories from School to Work

Abstract

The holistic and multilayered structure offered by the Capability Approach makes this theoretical framework particularly suitable for conceptualising and contextualising complex socioeconomic phenomena. However, several challenging issues on how to operationalise it are inevitably raised. Extensive and growing empirical applications of the Capability Approach in many fields of investigation show that researchers can meet many of the challenges posed by this approach by adopting various empirical strategies and technical solutions. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the recent empirical literature on capabilities, labour markets and education in Europe, using examples from recent European projects inspired by, or based on, the Capability Approach and offering interesting examples for those who wish to make use of this approach for future investigation in this field.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a review of the attempts to operationalise the Capability Approach and a comparison of different methods and techniques applied, see Chiappero-Martinetti and Roche (2009). See also Lessman (2012) on the empirical application of the Capability Approach in labour-related studies. An extensive and in-progress database on the empirical literature managed by the thematic group on quantitative methods is available on the Human Development and Capability Association website (http://hd-ca.org/).

  2. 2.

    Household surveys and aggregate indicators provide an extensive amount of information allowing for the assessment of a broad spectrum of well-being domains. Nevertheless, some relevant dimensions still remain unexplored as outlined by Alkire (2007). The OPHI project on missing dimensions aims to fill this gap and identifies five dimensions of poverty that should be integrated into surveys (informal employment, empowerment, physical safety, ability to go about without shame, psychological and subjective well-being).

  3. 3.

    This distinction between functionings measured generally using quantitative data, on the one hand, and capabilities measured using qualitative collected data, on the other hand, can be appropriate for clustering most empirical studies, but not every study. There are, for instance, interesting attempts to estimate capabilities using micro-data household surveys (see, for instance, Burchardt and Le Grand 2002; Krishnakumar 2007), and similarly there are ad hoc surveys conducted for measuring functionings (see Qizilbash and Clark 2005).

  4. 4.

    Ravaillon (2010a) outlines that most of the ‘mashup indices’ of development and poverty currently available are rarely rooted into a prevailing theory or grounded on robust methodological assumptions. For a discussion on this issue, see also Ravaillon (2010b, 2011) and the contributions to the special issue of the Journal of Economic Inequalities, vol. 9, no. 2, 2011.

  5. 5.

    If these papers are deeply and deliberately rooted in the capability literature, there are other, no less remarkable, contributions frequently mentioned which are only weakly connected to it. For instance, Defloor et al. (2009) apply and interpret standard microeconomic methodological tools, such as the transformation curve, in terms of capabilities, while Schokkaert et al. (2009) measure well-being in a broad sense, including aspects such as job quality and job satisfaction.

  6. 6.

    This proposal is part of a broader project promoted by OPHI (www.ophi.org.uk) on missing dimensions in assessing human development. They designed five short questionnaire modules to be integrated into national household surveys to obtain internationally comparable data on these dimensions, particularly in economically developing countries.

  7. 7.

    ‘Resources, rights and capabilities: In search of social foundation for Europe’ (http://www.capright.eu). The main findings and policy implications are synthesised in a downloadable policy report (www.capright.eu/News/?contentdID=9048).

  8. 8.

    See Transfer – European Review of Labour and Research, no. 18, 2012; and Management Revue – the International Review of Management Studies, vol. 23, no.2, 2012.

  9. 9.

    ‘Reconciling Work and Welfare in Europe’ (http://www.recwowe.eu)

  10. 10.

    See, for instance, Goerne’s (2010) paper on the application of the Capability Approach for social policy analysis.

  11. 11.

    On higher education and the Capability Approach, see also the volume edited by Walker and Boni (2012).

  12. 12.

    BCS70 is a longitudinal secondary dataset which provides detailed information on the educational and professional choices of a sample of individuals regularly tracked and interviewed since their birth in 1970.

  13. 13.

    A Marie Curie International Training Network project consolidated research on education and welfare and investigating young people’s opportunities in three central interrelated dimensions of welfare (i.e. work, autonomy and participation) using the theoretical framework of the Capability Approach. The innovative research lines undertaken by the young doctoral students involved in this project sought to advance knowledge and empirical evidence on this specific topic and enhance the frontier of the operationalisation of this approach (see www.eduwel-eu.org).

  14. 14.

    Voice has been defined as ‘the extent to which people are allowed to express their wishes, expectations and concerns in collective decision-making processes and make them count’ (Bonvin 2012: 15).

  15. 15.

    Some of the analysis made use of datasets other than EU-SILC data to make more in-depth studies of specific countries. The British Household Panel Survey was used to explore the effects of scarring on transitions of young people in the UK and the Northern Swedish Cohort study to examine the long-term mental health effects of two different forms of unemployment experiences in Sweden.

  16. 16.

    See Hazel (1995), Punch (2002) and Barker and Weller (2003) who outline examples such as using vignettes and photographs to encourage discussion, and ‘secret boxes’ where participants can anonymously write down aspects of their experiences that they would not feel comfortable discussing directly with the researcher when researching the experiences of children and young people.

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Chiappero-Martinetti, E., Egdell, V., Hollywood, E., McQuaid, R. (2015). Operationalisation of the Capability Approach. In: Otto, HU., et al. Facing Trajectories from School to Work. Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Issues, Concerns and Prospects, vol 20. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-11436-1_7

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