Arianna Tassinari, Kari Hadjivassiliou, Sam Swift

Plus ça change...? Innovation and continuity in UK youth employment policy during the Great Recession

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Youth Unemployment; Labour Market Policy; Vocational Education and Training; Great Recession; United Kingdom.

In response to rising youth unemployment in the context of the Great Recession, starting in 2010 the UK introduced numerous policy innovations in its youth transitional labour market policy, focusing especially on Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) and Vocational Education and Training (VET). But is the intense reform activity indicative of a significant path-shift in policy towards greater social investment, when considered against the UK's pre-crisis institutional legacy? Focusing on key measures implemented in England between 2010 and 2015, we draw on Hall's (1993) «degrees of change» conceptual framework to analyse the content of recent policy innovations and assess their relative degree of continuity with the UK's characteristic features as a «liberal youth transitions» regime (Pohl and Walther 2007). In our view, despite significant changes in policy instrument design, the UK's policy goals and overall youth transition model exhibit striking continuity with the pre-crisis period. Concerning ALMPs, we find continued emphasis on supply-side policies encouraging young people's early labour market entry, and prioritising work experience. VET shows signs of potential paradigm change, with numerous measures seeking to significantly transform VET and the level of employer involvement. However, the degree of institutional change is limited, as evidence suggests continued employer resistance to stronger coordination mechanisms and a more active role as VET providers rather than consumers.

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