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Changes on the Labour Market for Young Men and Women With and Without Vocational Training in Sweden

┼sa Murray

Department of Special Education
Stockholm Institute of Education, Sweden

Paper Presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Lahti, Finland 22 - 25 September 1999

Introduction

There are several reasons why young men and women without further education and training might be considered as a group at risk in Sweden. They are young with limited work experience and they have no formal qualifications. They are also a minority as most young people in Sweden have an upper secondary education.

Purpose

The purpose of the following study is to investigate the situation on the labour market in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s for young men and women without further education and training. They will be compared to young men and women with a two-year vocational education and training from upper secondary school (men and women with vocational training) who have a similar home and family background. Have the gap between these groups been widening or have the unemployment in the 1990s hit young men and women with vocational training just as hard as young men and women without further education and training?

The Theoretical Bases of the Study

According to the human capital theory (Becker, 1964) young men and women without further education and training will have greater difficulties on the labour market (lower wages, higher unemployment) than those with vocational training. But the same prediction will theories critical to the human capital theory (Thurow, 1972) also come to. It is only the explanation of why young men and women are more unemployed and have lower wages than men and women with vocational training that differ between the theories. According to the human capital theory men and women without further education and training have more difficulties on the labour market because they are less qualified and therefore less productive than men and women with vocational training. According to the critical theories young men and women without further education and training have more difficulties on the labour market because the demand for labour is too low in the economy and they are further back in the job queue than young men and women with vocational training. By studying the situation on the labour market of young adults with and without a vocational upper secondary education over a longer period both long-term and short-term changes can be observed. However, if the changes reflect ‘real’ changes of the required qualifications for available jobs or changes of the employers’ preferences or attitudes to young adults without further education and training cannot be observed. But a natural assumption is that long term changes on the labour market more reflect ‘real’ changes in the required qualifications for jobs than short-term changes.

Significance of the Study

The study is a contribution to the discussion about what can be considered to be the ‘minimum’ level of education that is necessary for young people to get established on the labour market? Is a nine-year compulsory education enough or is further education and training really necessary? What difference does it make to have a two-year vocational upper secondary education in employment opportunities and in wages?

Methods

The research material consists of three large scale (13 000, 14 000 and 16 000 school leavers) nation-wide seven-year follow-up studies of school leavers after they have completed compulsory education. The follow-up studies of school leavers took place in the 1978, 1986 and 1995 and were conducted by Statistics Sweden (Statistics Sweden, 1980, 1987 and 1996). The school leavers left compulsory school (at the age of 16) and were investigated seven years later at the age of 23 with a questionnaire sent to them by mail. The non-response rate in the three follow-up studies were estimated as being 16 per cent in 1978, 18 per cent in 1986 and 21 per cent in 1995. In all three investigations similar questions were found about the situation on the labour market of the school leavers and their main occupation during the follow-up period. The answers to these questions forms the basis for the following study.

The investigation groups (without further education and training) consist of

young adults who did not continue to upper secondary school but left school at the age of 16;

young adults who dropped out from upper secondary school.

The comparison groups consist of

young men with a two-year vocational education and training in metalwork or building and construction or electrical installations;

young women with a two-year vocational education and training in home economics or office work or nursing.

Young men with vocational training in metalwork or building and construction had similar home background and school achievements from compulsory school as those young men who left school at age 16 and young women with vocational training in home economics or office work had similar home background and school achievements as those young women who left school at age 16 (Murray, 1997). These vocational programmes were also a realistic alternative for many young people who did not continue to upper secondary school. Other programmes (mainly academic) had entrance requirements, which most of the early school leavers could not meet.

Results

The results indicate deteriorating conditions on the labour market for young adults without further education and training as well as for young adults with vocational training. Some changes on their situation on the labour market were found already in the 1980s (long-term changes) and others at first in the 1990s (short-term changes).

Men

Employment rates decreased among men without further education and training already in the 1980s and even more in the 1990s. Among men with vocational training employment rates decreased primarily in the 1990s. But then they decreased to the same extent or even more than for men without further education and training. Thus, the gap in employment rates widened somewhat between men with and men without vocational training in the 1980s compared to the 1970s, but decreased in the 1990s.

Young men without further education and training had jobs mainly in the same job sector in the 1990s as in the 1970s. However, metalwork jobs and jobs in the transport sector decreased. Instead jobs in building and construction and in commerce increased. Men who left school at age 16 were to a greater extent found in building and construction and men who dropped out of upper secondary school to a greater extent in commercial jobs. Concreter was a common job they among men who had left school at age 16 and shop assistant a common job among men who had dropped out of upper secondary school.

Men with vocational training on the other hand had increasing difficulty in finding a job for which they were trained in the 1990s compared to the 1970s. Sixty-one per cent of men with metalwork training had a metalwork job at the age of 23 in the 1970s. In the 1990s only 46 per cent of men with metal work training had a metalwork job at the same age. Almost fifty per cent (47%) of men with training in electrical installations had a job for which they were trained in 1970s but in the 1990s this proportion had decreased to 27 per cent.

The wage premium for having vocational training which was found among men and in the 1970s had almost diminished during the investigated period. Thus, even if men without further education and training had increasing difficulty finding a job, men with vocational training also experienced deteriorating conditions on the labour market.

Women

Among women a slightly widening gap in employment rates was found already in the 1980s between those with and without vocational training, the latter group having lower employment rates. In the 1990s this gap widened even further. Women without further education and training had to change job sector to a greater extent than men with the same educational background. Office work was the most common type of job for women without further education and training in the 1970s. These jobs had almost disappeared in the 1990s among women with this educational background in the 1990s. Jobs in the health and child care, which was common in the 1970s, also decreased. Instead jobs in manufacturing and in commerce increased. Women who left school at age 16 had jobs in the manufacturing sector, most often as packer, press operator and book binder while women who had dropped out of upper secondary school often were shop assistants.

Women with home economics training and women with office work training also had to change job sector to a great extent. Only women with nursing training were employed in health and child care almost to the same extent in the 1990s as in the 1970s. Jobs in health and child care were the most common jobs for women with home economics training in the 1970s. Almost every second woman with home economics training had such type of job. But in the 1990s only half the proportion of them were employed in this sector. Instead they were found in service jobs most often as cleaners.

Women with office work training had to find jobs in other sectors to a greater extent than any other group which were investigated. In the 1970s 61 per cent of women with this training had an office job but in the 1990s it was only 26 per cent.

A wage premium for having vocational training was found among young women in the 1970s as well as among young men. This premium decreased also among women but not quite to the same extent as among men.

Conclusions

The results show that a two-year vocational education in upper secondary school is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to get established on the labour market in the 1970s as well as in the 1990s. Deteriorating conditions on the labour market were found not only among men and women without further education and training but also among men and women with a two-year vocational education and training from upper secondary school. In the 1990s a two-year vocational education and training hardly meant better employment opportunities or a better paid job for young men, but it still meant access to other and more qualified jobs than the jobs young men without further education and training had. For the women a vocational upper secondary education meant access to more qualified jobs, better employment opportunities and in some cases a better paid job. Thus, some further education and training seem to be more valuable on the labour market for women than for men. Perhaps the men can compensate lack of education and training by taking jobs which require physical strength.

The results also indicate that other factors than education and training are important for young men and women on the labour market. One of these is the business cycle and the demand for labour. The employment rates decreased in all investigated groups during the economic recession in the 1990s. Institutional factors may also have an impact on the demand for young workers. The introduction of ‘youth jobs’ (publicly subsidised jobs for young people) reduced unemployment among young people, but these youth jobs also replaced other jobs on the open labour market for young people (Wadensj÷, 1987). The introduction of publicly subsidised jobs for young adults (18-24-year olds) in the 1992 have probably also replaced jobs for young adults on the open labour market. Another factor of importance is the vocational programme and how it matches the demand for labour. In the 1990s the demand for building and construction workers was low as building and construction work was reduced in Sweden during the beginning of the 1990s. The consistently lower employment rates and wages for women than for men also shows the importance of gender.

Both theories about the low skilled and the labour market are supported by the findings. Men and women with vocational training generally had a better situation on the labour market than those without further education and training a result which support the human capital theory. They have better qualifications than those without further education and training. The falling employment rates in the 1990s support the theories critical to the human capital theory as the main problem seem to be the business cycle and the low demand for labour which hit even those with vocational training.

Policy Implications

The results support many of the changes which have taken place in the Swedish upper secondary school. The two-year vocational programmes have been replaced by three-year programmes and the academic standard on the vocational programmes have been raised. The study shows that two years of vocational education and training are not enough qualifications on the labour market. The young men and women with vocational training had high unemployment in the 1990s and increasing difficulty finding a job for which they were trained. Thus, an upgrading of the vocational programmes seem to be an appropriate step to take. The on-going changes on the labour market also support higher academic requirements in the vocational programmes in order to ease life-long learning and training. On the other hand it can not be absolutely necessary to force all young people into further education and training in the upper secondary school immediately after compulsory education. Many young people hate school and need work experiences to motivate them for further education and training. There is still a demand for unskilled labour as many young men and women without further education and training had a job even during the economic recession in the beginning of the 1990s. As jobs for very young people are diminishing on the open labour market, a co-operation between the local employers and the school needs to be established to help school-tired young people to get work experience.

Acknowledgements

Funding for this study has been provided by the Swedish Council for Social Research and DGXII of the European Commission. Anders Skarlind has helped me with the data set from the investigation in 1995.

References

Becker, G. (1964) Human capital. Columbia University Press, New York.

Murray, ┼. (1997) Young people without an upper secondary education in Sweden. Their home background and labour market experiences. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, No 2, 93-125.

Statistics Sweden (1980) Compulsory school. Follow up in 1978 in the spring. Studies, work etc. seven years after leaving compulsory school in 1971 (in Swedish). Statistical Report U 1980:13, Stockholm.

Statistics Sweden (1987) Occupation of young adults after compulsory school. Work, studies, unemployment etc. in 1995 in the spring for young adults who left compulsory school in 1979 (in Swedish). Statistical Report U 44 8701, Stockholm

Statistics Sweden (1996) Occupation of young adults seven years after leaving compulsory school. Work, studies and unemployment in 1995 in the spring for young adults who left compulsory school in 1988 (in Swedish). Statistical Report U 82 9601, Stockholm.

Thurow, L. (1972) Education and economic inequality. The Public Interest. Summer 1972, 2866-2881.

Wadensj÷, E. (1987) The youth labour market in Sweden. Changes in the 1980’s, Economia et Lavaro, 1, pp 97-104.

This document was added to the Education-line database 24 September 1999