Youth and Precarious Work
It is now commonplace to observe that the transitions from youth to adulthood (Furlong and Cartmel 1997; Stokes and Wyn 2007) have become more fragmented, and even to question the value of these categories for understanding the life course. In the Fordist era of the mid-twentieth century, working people could base their life plans – including in personal relationships – on the expectation of relatively secure employment contracts with large stable employers. Under such social arrangements, education and work corresponded with distinct and sequential periods of life, and any further training came on-the-job mostly at employers’ expense (Watson et al. 2003). But in contemporary post-industrial societies fewer workers are now employed by large companies/ organisations, and in the course of their working lives, children will almost certainly have more jobs than their parents. The short shelf life of skills and occupations means that, as politicians and employers keep telling us, training/education is a lifelong challenge. Among the variety of risks and calculations associated with late modernity (Giddens 1991) is what we might call credential anxiety – deciding whether to invest time and – in an increasing user-pays environment – money in various forms of post-school education/training.
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