Introduction: Balancing Flexibility and Security for Young People During the Crisis

Raul Eamets, Katrin Humal, Miroslav Beblavý, Ilaria Maselli, Kariappa Bheemaiah, Mark Smith, Mairéad Finn, Janine Leschke

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    The balance of flexibility and security for labour market participants is a perennial challenge for policy-makers. In the late 1990s, the term ‘flexicurity’ seemed to offer a solution to this balancing act. Indeed, in the first decade of this century, ‘flexicurity’ became a dominant theme at the European and national level, and although its use has declined in recent years, the flexibility/security balance has remained a central factor in determining labour market outcomes – particularly for young people.
    However, the concept of ‘flexicurity’ received a lot of criticism, often related to a lack of clarity in its definition. On the one hand, this definitional ambiguity helps explain why the concept was picked up so easily at the policy level across a wide variety of stakeholders and national contexts. On the other hand, the ambiguity also explains how policies resulting in an overemphasis on (external) flexibility and employability, with little emphasis on job and income security, were developed. Whatever the term used, the balance of flexibility and security remains a key dimension in understanding the plight of young people entering the labour market, and the economic crisis only served to further expose the uneven security afforded to different labour market groups.
    Young people tend to accumulate negative flexibility outcomes in that they have more limited contractual security, and a greater risk of working on non-standard contracts and of losing their jobs more quickly than the comparable adult population. At the same time, young people also have less job and income security because of their lower seniority and more limited employment histories. Furthermore, in most European countries, workers on non-standard contracts have more limited access to unemployment benefits than workers on standard employment contracts. These are all factors that can exacerbate the position of vulnerable labour market groups, which are often disproportionally engaged on such contracts – young people, women and people with lower education levels. The crisis exacerbated the risks of these negative outcomes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationYouth Employment : STYLE Handbook
    EditorsJacqueline O’Reilly, Clémentine Moyart, Tiziana Nazio, Mark Smith
    Number of pages4
    Place of PublicationBrighton
    PublisherSTYLE. University of Brighton
    Publication date2017
    ISBN (Print)9781910172179
    ISBN (Electronic)9781910172186
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Flexibility
    • Flexicurity
    • Security
    • Youth

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