Europe is home to significant prosperity, but it is also home to many young people striving for independence and meaning in a labour market shaped by individualism, competition and unequal opportunities. On pursuing better prospects in the world of work, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen stressed the need for ‘broader objectives of decent work and adequate living for working people’ in his renowned address launching the Decent Work Agenda at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1999. It remains vital today.

Against this backdrop, the EST Working Group on Youth Employment endeavours to help mobilise the youth voice at the European Student Think Tank and to equip its audience with an understanding of various themes related to youth in the labour market. Through this student-led project, the think tank is supporting the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, an ILO-led multi-stakeholder platform that aims to catalyse action towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this wave of publications, five Election Briefs (available below) offer insights into selected themes of youth employment and, eyeing the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May 2019, discuss the European Union’s role in helping create prospects and opportunities for youth.

The collection shines a spotlight on the nature of work, factors that shape it and its links to quality of life. The first brief ‘Of Carts and Horses’, written by Arthur Corazza at the London School of Economics, argues that the variety of flexible work arrangements can, despite its upsides, entail risks, which makes reconciling job quality and quantity an important task for policy-making. In the next contribution, Casper Gelderblom, based at the University of Cambridge, explains why young people’s collective voice in the post-crisis labour market is pivotal for improving prospects and puts forward how the EU could turn its previously Janus-faced role in social dialogue into a more constructive one. Following this, Leiden University alumna Marina Papazotou unravels a similarly ambivalent domain, as gender equality has for long been high on the EU social agenda, but now – after the economic crisis – needs to be reformulated with specific policy objectives. In the fourth Election Brief, Severin Rapp from the University of Oxford explains the impact of vocational education on youth employment and social mobility, highlighting potential ways to design apprenticeship systems and education policy accordingly. Finally, Götz Siedler from the University of Bonn shows that technological change drives labour market trends, concluding that well-designed institutions and skill formation can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

Overall, while presenting these five themes in an internally consistent manner, this collection should by no means be understood as a complete or conclusive depiction of young people’s situation in the labour market. Rather, it highlights pressing EU-policy issues in order to equip readers with the tools to make sense of the world of work and to navigate the European debate around it.

Election Briefs

Election Brief 19-01

Arthur Corazza
London School of Economics

Of Carts and Horses: Youth in Non-Standard Employment


  • Atypical jobs matter for youth and can entail manifold disadvantages
  • The current policy approach reflects different ideas for the European Union’s social dimension
  • Towards 2030, the European agenda should better reconcile quantity and quality of work


Election Brief 19-02

Casper Gelderblom
University of Cambridge

Youth, Unions, and a European Future That Works For All


  • Young workers have been strongly affected by the crisis
  • Insecurity on the job market is due to workers‘ weakened bargaining power
  • The EU has an important role to play towards trade union rejuvenation


Election Brief 19-03

Marina Papazotou
Leiden University Alumna

Gender Inequality in the World of Work


  • Young people were particularly affected by the crisis and gender plays a role in exacerbating situations
  • The EU-level policy approach focuses on flexibility and lifelong learning, but falls short of highlighting gender-specific disadvantages
  • In order to simultaneously support economic performance and gender equality, gender-specific targets should complement the existing strategy


Election Brief 19-04

Severin Rapp
University of Oxford

Having the Cake and Eating it? – Vocational education and Inequalities


  • Apprenticeship systems exacerbate social inequalities
  • Some European approaches help, but more needs to be done
  • Inequalities can be tackled in the education system more generally


Election Brief 19-05

Götz Sielder
University of Bonn

A shifting labour market: Polarisation or Upgrading?


  • Labour market polarisation is a trend observed in Europe
  • The prevalence of polarisation seems to be related to labour market and general economic and political institutions
  • Improved skill formation is needed to turn polarisation into upgrading

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