The Cowork4YOUTH Baseline Study: an interview with Dr. Elish Kelly

In the previous issue we announced (with some excitement) the publication of the Cowork4YOUTH project’s Baseline Study on the Impact of Youth Employment Policies. Today it’s time to take a closer look at the content of the Baseline Study, with Dr. Elish Kelly as our guide. Elish is a Senior Research Officer at our Irish project partner, the Economic and Social Research Institute, which led the research team behind the Baseline Study.

The Cowork4YOUTH Baseline Study offers an extensive look at the situation of the labour market and the youth employment policies in the project’s study countries in the years 2008-2020. Based on annual European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) microdata, the study examines:  i) employment rates; ii) unemployment rates; iii) long-term unemployment rates; iv) NEET rates; and v) inactivity rates. It looks at these indicators both for the overall population, and divided by gender. Furthermore, the study also includes calculations of sectoral youth employment shares for economic sectors that correspond to the region types being focused on in the project.

The Baseline Study on the Impact of Youth Employment Policiesand its Executive Summary are freely available from our project website:

The Cowork4YOUTH Baseline Study is a collaboration of researchers from institutions in 5 different countries. How does such an international collaboration work?

First, maybe to mention the benefits of the international collaboration that took place for the Baseline Study is that it allowed for identification and learnings on employed and unemployed youths and NEETS across each of the partners’ countries, in terms of the youth situation within each country and relevant policies and programmes that have been put in place in the various countries since 2008 to support their youths.

In terms of the mechanisms by which the international collaboration took place, one country partner was identified to lead on the Baseline Study, in this case Ireland. The Irish research team devised an outline for the Study in January 2022, consulted on the outline with its Cowork4YOUTH project partners at the Steering Committee meeting that took place at the end of that month, agreed on its framework with the research partners in February and commenced the Study’s data work in March 2022. The lead partner undertook the data analyses contained within the Study, which are based on EU-Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) microdata. Once complete, the relevant country partners whose country was covered within the Baseline Study, in this case, Spain, Italy and Greece (in addition to Ireland), reviewed their country’s chapter analyses and provided feedback on the work. These research partners also provided information on the economic context within their country for the period of the Study (2008-2020) and the relevant policies that had been put in place over the period to assist their employed, unemployed and NEET youths. While this country chapter work was going on, the non-Baseline Study country research partners collated and provided an overview of European policy in this area between 2008 and 2020. After the country chapters were finalised, these research partners also summarised the main findings from the Study and drew out the main policy implications that arose from the Study. The Baseline Study then went through a peer-review and revision process, before being finalised for publication at the end of July 2022.

The Baseline Study notes differences in the employment situation of youths between countries and even between regions in the same country. What would you say the cause of this is, and what are the implications?

Yes, that is correct. While the four countries examined – Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland – share similar issues, there is also considerable variation in the composition of the challenges within and between the countries. While it is difficult to pinpoint with certainty the exact reasons for the discrepancies in the employment situation of youths between the study countries, and within countries, there are some potential explanations. First, the period covered in the Baseline Study is 2008 to 2020, and one needs to bear in mind that there were already existing inequalities between the countries, and regions within the countries, before this period that will have contributed to the observed discrepancy in findings over the study period. These discrepancies will also have impacted the effectiveness of any common policy responses implemented over the period of the study, such as the Youth Guarantee. There are also structural determining factors at play in the socio-economic development of the national contexts of the study countries, as well as the countries’ regions, that will have affected the cohorts under study and, consequently, the Study’s findings, both before and during the period covered by the Study. For example, variation in institutional settings (e.g., centralised versus multi-level governance systems). Specific to the period of the Study, there is significant heterogeneity in the findings across each member state, and within states, due to variation in the impact of the 2008 Great Recession across the countries, along with differences in the labour market policies introduced at a national level in each country over the period.

Having taken a broader look at European labour policies since the Great Recession, would you say they have been successful?

One cannot unquestionably say yes to this question, and I think the fact that we see variation in the findings across the study countries shows that there has been variation in the effectiveness of European labour market policies to assist youths in each country examined since the Great Recession. This Study identified a number of key youth employment policy responses implemented by the four study countries to address the severe impact of the Great Recession, both individually and also collectively under the European Youth Guarantee (YG). In doing this, the research highlighted the different effects that such a European policy can have due to divergent country conditions, both economic and social, and also, as already mentioned, variations in institutional settings across countries.

Was there anything unexpected among the findings?

Maybe another way to think of this question is were there any interesting findings as opposed to unexpected, given that one of the objectives of the study was to identify and provide a baseline of the actual situation within each country between 2008 and 2020.

In terms of interesting findings then, one of the main ones, and which has already been referred to, is that even though the Study found that the countries examined share similar issues there is considerable variation in the composition of the challenges within and between countries.

The study found that by 2019 no country had returned to pre-recession levels of youth employment, and rates of youth unemployment remained between 20-30% for all countries in 2019 except for Ireland (9.1%). Long-term youth unemployment rates across the four study countries are marked by recovery to, or close to, pre-recession levels except in the case of Greece. NEET rates showed signs of recovery except for Italy where they have failed to decrease significantly from 2014 levels. One of the main findings from the Study was the identification of large variations in the make-up of employed, unemployed, long-term unemployed and NEET youths in the four study countries.

The study also considers differences in the employment situation of men and women in the study countries. Did you gain any insights concerning diversity and inclusion in the labour market, which is the topic of this issue of the Youth Employment Magazine?

The research highlighted that differences exist between men and women across the four study countries. For example, labour market indicators for female youths trailed their male counterparts in Greece and Italy in nearly all measures examined. This gender difference was less pronounced in Spain and Ireland, largely equalising or becoming marginal in later years for youth employment and unemployment rates. Nevertheless, in spite of this convergence, male rates of youth employment remained higher in all countries as of 2020. With regards to NEETs, in both Spain and Ireland males dominated NEET rates after the peak of the Great Recession, but in more recent years females have constituted the larger percentage of NEETs. Also, while the Study found a general upward trend of inactive youths in all countries, the rate was higher for females. 

Did you face any particular challenges concerning the collection and the analysis of the data?  And if so, how did you overcome them?

The analyses contained within the Baseline Study are based on EU-Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) microdata, which we applied to Eurostat to access for this study. The calculated rates in the Baseline Study do not always line up with those published by Eurostat, which is due to the use of quarterly data by Eurostat for its published results, whereas annual data were used in the Baseline Study and each data source is based on a different weighting scheme. Nevertheless, the discrepancies between the annual and quarterly data are minor.


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