Research Programme




  Work in Progress



Research Programme

 Second Book Project "Making The Transition – Education and Labour Market Entry in Central and Eastern Europe", edited by Irena Kogan, Clemens Noelke and Michael Gebel (Forthcoming at Stanford University Press)

In the third step of our project work, we have addressed the consequences of system transformation on young people’s labour market integration. Two decades after the breakdown of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe, our study represents the first, large-scale analysis of the consequences of transformation for young people's transition from school to work in Central and Eastern Europe. The results of this project stage have resulted in the edited volume “Making the Transition. Education and Labour Market Entry in Central and Eastern Europe” (about 500 pages), which has been accepted for publication and is currently in production in the internationally leading book series on social inequality and social stratification at Stanford University Press. The volume is based on a large-scale international collaboration and continues the tradition of systematic, theory guided comparative research in sociology, using the highest quality data sources available. Our goal has been to provide a rigorous comparative assessment of two questions that have been of long standing interest in the social sciences. First, what role do or what role can education systems play in preparing young people for the transition from school to work? Second, what have been the consequences of transformation from socialism to capitalism for social inequality in the turbulent transformation years after 1989 and up until the mid-2000s?

Two introductory chapters outline how market liberalization, economic restructuring and changing educational preferences have lead to substantial changes in education systems and discuss how exactly education systems structure young people's entry into the workforce. Written by 21 (mainly local) experts from Central and Eastern Europe, ten country studies reveal persistent differences but also common changes in educational systems, and analyze the effects of educational attainment on early labour market career outcomes. Through the country studies by local experts, we have gained in-depth insights into the diversity among post-socialist countries that sometimes eludes Western observers. For the ten CEE countries we have analyzed (Croatia, Czech Republic, East Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia), we can document educational expansion and differentiation of tertiary education at a speed hardly ever observed in Western societies, with substantial variations across countries in the role of market-based financing of higher education. At the same time, we observe a decline in the role of vocational schools at the secondary level, which had formed a crucial part of skill supply under the socialist production regime. While these post-transformation trends are general, their dynamics and consequences differ depending on the national historic and institutional context. A concluding chapter summarizes key findings:

We generally observe a superior performance of tertiary graduates in terms of speed of entry and quality of the first job across CEE countries but the relative advantage of tertiary graduates varies with the degree of expansion and differentiation of the tertiary sector. At the secondary level, we find that particularly general secondary graduates and also lower vocational graduates have experienced increasing difficulty in entering the labour market. Vocational education still facilitates labour market entry in all CEE countries. Even lower vocational programs generally lead to faster entry into the first job compared to secondary general education, although the status of this job is often much lower than the status obtained by general secondary and upper vocational graduates. Upper secondary vocational graduates seem to benefit from vocational preparation both by obtaining comparatively high status jobs compared to other secondary graduates as well as comparatively fast labour market entries, while at the same time maintaining the option to continue their educational careers in the expanding tertiary sector.

Moreover, our analyses show that young people were strongly affected by transformation and that the introduction of a market economy has lead to an increase in social inequality at the transition from school to work. We observe considerable variation across countries though in terms of the increase of labour market inequalities. While in Russia, educational differentials in terms of the speed of finding a first job remained relatively stable, educational inequalities grew substantially in Estonia and the Czech Republic. In both countries, those failing to complete any upper secondary education have suffered the most from diminishing labour market chances. These results attest to the rising importance of educational degrees and education systems in structuring the transition from school to work, particularly in the more successful reform countries.