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What Difference Does it Make? The Outcome Effects of the European Employment Strategy on the Transition from Education to Work

Author: CHRISTIAN BRZINSKY-FAY
Published in GPS, Vol. 7 No. 1

This article aims at assessing the effects of the EES on youth labour market
outcomes in the EU-15 countries within the recent decade. With the European
Employment Strategy, which was established in 1998, and the Lisbon
objectives in education and training, which came into force in 2000, the European
Union among other topics started focussing on young people and
their chances in entering and succeeding the labour market. The political
instrument for the implementation was the Open Method of Coordination
(OMC), which aims at taking into account different complex institutional
frameworks while formulating common targets that have to be reached using
different policies.
The analysis of the effects looks at both the output (i.e. the implementation
of youth employment policies) and at the outcome dimension (i.e. youth
labour market indicators). Within the field of school-to-work transitions,
like in other fields of social and employment policy, effects of the EES on
the policy making process can be observed, while the effect on the outcome
dimension – that is the relative youth unemployment and the employment
rate among 15 to 24 years old people – hardly can be detected: Regarding
the youth policies that were set up by the national governments, it can be
shown that youth labour markets and their institutional frameworks between
countries differ in the same way as the effects of the EES and the policies,
and so do the outcomes. However, some general trends can be observed.
The switch from employment to education issues might be one reason for
the lack of empirical success regarding youth labour market indicators. The
concentration on education issues has overshadowed the youth labour market
policies, which appears in the non-development of such policies as well
as in the lack of any empirical outcome effects.
Finally, the main result is that, for the EU-15 countries, the assumption
that the EES has affected policy making processes could be supported. Furthermore,
the degree of effectiveness with respect to the policy making process
depends on the degree of pre-existing compliance between the EES and national employment policy. In other words, those countries, which were
very much in line with the targets of the EES beforehand, showed little
compliance regarding the formulation of youth policies. Surprisingly
enough, out of this group of countries, Denmark, Sweden and the United
Kingdom show worsening outcome indicators, despite the fact that all of
them launched youth programmes. In countries with low compliance beforehand,
the outcome indicators also show no significant improvement. In
a nutshell, the induction of active youth labour market policies through the
EES shows indeed effects on the output dimension, but hardly on the outcome
level.

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