Research Programme




  Work in Progress




Educational Systems and Labour Markets
in Central and Eastern Europe

The overarching goal of the project has been to understand how transformation in Central and Eastern Europe has affected young people's entry into working life. A smooth transition from school for work is not only beneficial for individual labour market careers but also contributes to the welfare of societies. Our results suggest that young people in particular have suffered from the economic turmoil in the course of transformation, which has lead to dramatic increases in youth unemployment in a number of CEE countries. At the same time, young people were freed from oppressive regimes in their career choices, and could take advantage of new opportunities in higher education and on the labour market. The key questions the project tried to answer therefore relate to the determinants of success in the education system and on the labour market, and the role of transformation and institutional change in reshaping the underlying processes.

Given the dearth of comparative research on this issue, the first project stage comprised of descriptive analyses, which surveyed the changing institutional and macroeconomic environment in ten new EU Member states resulting in the publication of the handbook "Europe Enlarged". In this stage, we got acquainted with our collaboration partners through multiple workshops, and together, we worked out interesting questions and topics for subsequent in-depth analyses in the following project stages. Key scientific results from this project stage that fed into the subsequent analyses were: the apparent crisis but also persistence of vocational education and training provision in secondary education, rapid educational expansion of tertiary education, very diverse transformation policy choices and macroeconomic outcomes, and high social inequalities and weak welfare states compared to Western European countries.

The main project stage was characterized by in-depth analyses of the role of individual educational attainment and education systems in structuring the transition from school to work in ten CEE countries, where we and our cooperation partners could obtain access to high quality survey data. Our comparative analyses suggest that by and large inequalities in educational attainment and initial labour market outcomes follow similar patterns as observed in Western countries. Interestingly, and contrary to our initial expectations, vocational education at the secondary level still pays off in terms of faster labour market integration, irrespective of whether graduates have obtained training in enterprises or not. Moreover, educational expansion of tertiary education has given rise to new social inequalities. Children from advantaged social background manage to obtain access to prestigious master or diploma course, which guarantee a quick entry into high quality jobs, reproducing the social standing of their parents. In contrast, children from less advantaged backgrounds who enter higher education more often enrol in shorter more labour market oriented courses, which also facilitate rapid labour market integration, but lead to jobs of lower status. The main outcome of this stage is an edited volume "Making the Transition" forthcoming in Stanford University Press’ renowned series on Social Inequality.

A number of smaller projects also spun off our work on the edited volume, where researchers from Mannheim teamed up with researchers from CEE countries to work on select issues for journal publications and presentations at international conferences (about 38 altogether). Along with the high quality research record, the project achieved a substantial publication output, counting altogether 2 edited books, 1 edited journal volume in preparation, 36 book chapters, 14 journal articles at various publication stages, 7 working papers and 2 doctoral dissertations.

Latest publications
Europe enlarged

A handbook of education, labour and welfare regimes in Central and Eastern Europe

Edited by: Irena Kogan, Michael Gebel and Clemens Noelke
Details: 384 tbc pages HB 240 x 172; Policy Press; 2008;
Hardback ISBN 9781847420640