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Fighting youth unemployment

Forty researchers from across Europe have joined forces with HiOA to look for the most effective ways of overcoming young people's exclusion from the labour market.

Caroline Svendsen, Nic Mitchell and Lise Swensen Published: Updated:
Christer Hyggen, researcher at NOVA, HiOA and young women in the background.

Negotiate is a research project centered on finding solutions to youth unemployment in Europe. "The research deals with a theme that is universal, namely the transition from youth to adulthood. This research is even more relevant given the recent financial crisis in Europe, since we are seeing serious consequences for the job market, and especially for young adults who are not part of the job market and who would like to be", says Dr Christer Hyggen.

Hyggen is helping to spearhead the Negotiate project with the Director of Norwegian Social Research, Professor Bjørn Hvinden, who is Negotiate’s scientific coordinator. The term "negotiate" is being used to describe how young people have to navigate their way from school to work in an insecure world with increasing risk of unemployment, zero-hour contracts and temporary employment while at the same time trying to establish adult lives.

Comparing generations

The Negotiate project is now at the halfway point, and has already published working papers from most of its nine sub-projects, as well as two policy briefs. It is already clear that there is a large degree of variation in the levels of job insecurity between the Nordic countries and the UK on the one hand and the mass youth unemployment in southern, and some eastern European countries.

The first phase of the three-year project has been used to develop concepts and tools to map indicators of early job insecurity across Europe, and subsequently substance abuse and length of education. The second phase is to look in more depth at the strategies adopted by the young people caught up in the middle of the "new lost generation" in various European countries, and whether policies at local, national and European levels are able to strengthen young people’s negotiating positions.

New research methods

"We are trying to achieve a comprehensive understanding of early job insecurity using different kinds of data and innovative methodology to look for strategies to help the young people improve their options and opportunities", Hyggen says.

Bjørn Hvinden

In addition to applying state-of-the-art statistical methods to analyse secondary data from all European countries, the Negotiate project will generate unique comparative primary data, both qualitative and quantitative. In-depth life course interviews with individuals from three cohorts in seven European countries will shed light on long and short term consequences of early job insecurity as well as individuals’ strategies for overcoming and negotiating these adverse consequences. A vignette experiment using factorial survey design and a choice experiment will investigate the mechanisms behind scarring.

"Developing adequate tools for analysis, including conceptual development, is an integral part of Negotiate. The tools and the data will be made available to other researchers across Europe at a later stage", explains Hvinden.

Real impact

The research carried out so far suggests that it is profitable for welfare states to assist individuals so that they are able to re- enter the labour market, even though such programmes may seem costly at least in the short term.

"The results of this research could lead to more informed policy in order to deal with such issues, both at a local, national and European level", Hyggen explains. The aim is to give policy advice to the European Commission and national states across Europe on the best ways to tackle the issues raised about the ‘new lost generation’.

At the completion of the project in 2018, the Negotiate project will host a major conference to bring together employers, trade unions, work agencies, national governments, the European Commission and other stakeholders. "We want this research to have a real impact on the way early job insecurity is tackled across Europe," said Hyggen.

For more information contact Bjørn Hvinden (E-mail: bjorn.hvinden@nova.hioa.no) or Christer Hyggen (E-mail: christer.hyggen@nova.hioa.no)

Working papers and policy briefs are available at: www.negotiate-research.eu

Negotiate facts

The Negotiate research project is led by Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), a research institute at HiOA. The project is a €3 million initiative funded mainly by the European Union's Horizon 2020 with a €500,000 contribution from SERI, the Swiss Research Commission. A total of 40 researchers from 10 European countries are working on Negotiate, which is divided into 10 sub-projects. Negotiate will take place over 36 months, and is set to be finalised in March 2018.

Negotiate Research Partners

Solidar Foundation (EU), ISSK - Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Bulgaria), Poznan university (Poland), Panteion University (Greece), University of Girona (Spain), University of Basel (Switzerland), Masaryk University (Czech republic), University of Brighton (UK), Universität Bremen (Germany)

This article was originally published in HiOA Explore – a research magazine from Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.