Youth Unemployment in Germany - Skill Biased Patterns of Labour Market Integration

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Compared to their Spanish or Greek counterparts German youngsters seem to be weathering the current economic crisis quite well. Youth unemployment rates have not gone up dramatically and, at 9 per cent in 2011, are low by European standards. However, on closer examination it becomes clear that also in Germany young people are threatened by labour market exclusion if they have no access to proper vocational education. Against the background of accelerating technological and economic changes, such as the change from an industrial to a knowledge and service society or demographic changes, the increasing relevance of education is a common assertion in political and public debates. In contrast to this widespread agreement on the imperative of education, however, there is a large share of young people suffering from a lack of training. Every year 150,000 young people leave the education system without an approved vocational education. Allmendinger et al. (2011) estimate the consequential socio-economic costs of this development at 22,000 euros per person. These young people are likely to face sustainable exclusion from regular employment, if not from the labour market altogether. The scope of the present report covers the exploration of patterns of youth unemployment, which is defined as the unemployment of young people aged between 15 and 25 years. The focus is non-academic youngsters. On one hand, this is because most academic youngsters aged between 15 and 25 are not yet in the labour market. Furthermore, in Germany labour market chances are strongly linked to education (Solga 2009). As a result, academically educated people are threatened to a much lower extent by permanent labour market exclusion or discontinuous or precarious employment biographies (Hacket 2012). Even more so than in many other countries, in Germany labour market chances depend on access to vocational training. In this regard, the German VET system is the most decisive gatekeeper in distributing future labour market chances. Therefore, this paper focuses, on one hand, on patterns of youth unemployment, showing that lower qualified youngsters have a higher risk to become unemployed and, on the other hand, on access to vocational training. The report reveals that - particularly due to the rising relevance of the so-called transition system - in recent years access to vocational training has become more stratified.


Bettina Kohlrausch

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