Characterizing Spanish Labour Pathways of Young People

Corrales-Herrero, Helena y Rodríguez-Prado, Beatriz (2012) Characterizing Spanish labour pathways of young people with vocational lower secondary education, Applied Economics, 44(29), pp. 3777-3792.


School-to-work transition is no longer considered to take place at one point but it is seen as a sequential process with multiple stages that extend over a relatively long period in which individuals gradually settle down into the labour market. The paper constructs and examines the labour pathways followed by Spanish young people who have completed vocational lower secondary education. To do so, we use the Survey on Educational-Training Transition and Labour Integration (ETEFIL-2005), a retrospective longitudinal dataset that contains monthly calendar information about the labour states in the four years after completing vocational education.


The analysis consists of two parts. First, the youth labour trajectories are compared using the sequence analysis. This technique was first introduced to Social Sciences in the form of Optimal Matching Analysis (OMA). The idea behind OMA is that the similarity between sequences can be expressed as the cost of turning one sequence into another by applying a set of operations (substitution, insertion and deletion). We apply a recent extension of sequence analysis, the modified Hamming dissimilarity measure (Lesnard, 2006) that enables us to account for time dependent substitution costs. This initial step ends up by applying a cluster analysis taking as input the distance matrix obtained previously, and grouping trajectories that are very similar. As a second step, a multinomial logit model is estimated to evaluate the role of some demographic and educational variables in determining individual pathways.


Although, it has been widely documented that youth transitions have become increasingly long and complex, our analysis of the school-to-work transition for Spanish young people with vocational lower-secondary education shows that pathways are not substantial distinct across individuals and most trajectories may be classified as linear, with a successful integration into the labour market. This result is in agreement with educational systems including a substantial training component in a real working context, in which the school-to-work transition seems to be direct and smooth. Specifically, the cluster analysis based on dissimilarity measures has suggested seven coherent typologies of transitions from school to work.


Differences between them are basically due to the dominant labour state and to the order and location of the states. The largest cluster by far is composed of sequences characterized by a direct entry into the labour market with very short spells in the other states. It is remarkable to note that this cluster is also the most frequent when we distinguish by occupational families. The second cluster involves extended participation in education. Again, this result seems to confirm an adequate behaviour of vocational students. They try to improve their skills in order to get a better position into the labour market. Those clusters more problematic, where young people experience unfavourable long unemployment spells or spend most time without studying nor working, are less numerous. In spite of its small size, it would be useful to take a closer look at the characteristics of young people in the “full inactivity” cluster to understand better their transition to work. But this requires further research.


 On the other hand, differences between men and women have been found. Women are more likely to experience trajectories with a greater participation in part-time jobs or inactivity. In general, women sequences show greater variation and their integration is less direct.


 As a final thought, the paper highlights one point often overlooked when transition to school-to-work is concentrated in a comparative analysis between countries or in a national aggregated analysis. Spain is included in most European studies as a country where young people experience serious difficulties to enter into the labour market. However, this paper shows the opposite in the case of students with vocational education.


The favorable situation of the Spanish economy has contributed greatly to the rapid entry to the labour market. In this sense, it would be interesting to know how the trajectories would be in the case of an adverse economic situation. Besides, several aspects of the school-to-work transition (such as the quality of jobs attained by these young people with vocational lower-secondary education) have not been taken into account in this paper and they should help to improve our analysis in the future.


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