23 SES 02 D, Students' Trajectories
In most European countries, school-to-work transitions have become extended and increaseingly individualized, fragmented and risky. Vast numbers of youths end up with none or weak relations to the labour market. School dropout results in large individual and societal costs (Dale, 2010) and unemployment leaves long-lasting scars in terms of e.g. lowered wages and health (Bell & Blanchflower, 2009; Lundahl 2011a). Sweden is no exception: young Swedes who leave upper secondary education with incomplete grades are markedly over-represented amongst unemployed youth and young people with an early retirement (Olofsson et al 2012; Olofsson & Östh 2011). Leaving school thus means a risky and sometimes lonely journeying.
Expected to serve economic, social-inclusive and democratic functions, the enabling of successful youth transitions has become an important political topic all over Europe. Transition politics, here defined as strategies and efforts to promote school-to-work transitions at different political levels, however vary considerably between youth transition regimes (Walther, 2006; Pohl & Walther, 2007) with regard to their scope and orientation, value-basis and governance. Education and training, especially vocational preparation (Dale, 2010; Bäckman et al., 2011), constitute central parts of transition policies, but the emphasis varies with regard to more universal or selective educational measures and varying degrees of flexible or standardized education and training. Also the varying involvement of the social partners in designing vocational training is of central importance for transition patterns. Sweden has been regarded as a typical representative of a social democratic welfare regime, but after an intensive period of restructuring and ‘modernisation’, Swedish education and social welfare in the early 2000s are increasingly characterized by far-reaching marketization and decentralization (Bunar, 2010; Lundahl, 2011b). The municipalities in the Nordic countries have traditionally had high levels of discretion and multiple functions. In the last 25 years, governing by objectives and results and new public management has led both to increased local autonomy and fragmentation, e.g. with respect to education and youth policies.
The aim of the paper is to analyse some common denominators and variations of current Swedish transition politics, in particular at the local level, and identify some of the factors behind the large variations between municipalities, even among those with similar socio-economic conditions. We finally discuss the difficulties to support young people´s transitions and prevent dropout from upper secondary school. The paper emanates from the research project Unsafe transitions. School-to-work transitions of young people at risk in a longitudinal perspective (funded by the Swedish Research Council).
Bäckman, O, et al. (2011). Dropping out in Scandinavia. Social exclusion and labour market attachment among upper secondary school dropouts in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Arbetsrapport/Institutet för framtidsstudier 2011:8. Bell, D. N.F & Blanchflower, D. G. (2009) What should be done about rising unemployment in the OECD? Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit/Institute for the Study of Labour. Discussion Paper No. 4455. Bunar, N. (2010). Choosing for quality or inequality: current perspectives on the implementation of school choice policy in Sweden. Journal of Education Policy, 25(1), 1-18. Dale, R. (2010). Early School Leaving. Lessons from research for policy makers. NESSE: An independent expert report submitted to the European Commission. European Comission Lundahl, L. (2011a). Paving the way to the future? Education and young European´s paths to work and independen¬ce. European Educational Research Journal, 10(2), 168-179. Lundahl, L. (2011b). The emergence of a Swedish school market. In R. Hatcher & K. Jones, eds.: No country for the young: education from New Labour to the Coalition. London: Tufnell Press, 37-50 Olofsson, J.; Lundahl, L.; Lexelius, A.; Rolfsman, E. & Östh, J. (2012). Ungas övergångar mellan skola och arbete. Förutsättningar, lokala strategier och åtgärder (Young people´s school-to-work transitions. Preconditions, local strategies and measures. Umeå University: Dept. of Applied Educational Science. Olofsson, J. & Östh, J. (2011). Förtidspensionering av unga. En fråga om utsortering efter utbildningsnivå och socioekonomisk bakgrund? (Early retirement of young people. A matter of educational level and socio-economic background?) Report to the Parliament committee on social insurance (S 2010:04). Pohl, A. & Walther, A. (2007): Activating the disadvantaged. Variations in addressing youth transitions across Europe, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26:5, 533-553. Walther, A. (2006). Regimes of youth transitions: Choice, flexibility and security in young people´s experiences across different European contexts. Young, 14:2, 119–139
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