Cross National Biographies
Comparing precarious employment across countries

Project overview

The main objective of the “Dynamics of youth employment precarity: drivers, trajectories, and outcomes in a cross-national perspective” project is to analyse the prevalence, determinants, and life-course effects of early career precarious employment in Poland, Germany, the U.K., and the United States. In order to overcome the limitations of previous research on non-standard employment contracts and job / labour market uncertainty, we propose a conceptualization of precarious employment as a career sequence, consisting of periods of recurring fixed-term employment separated by spells of unemployment, combined with low and / or unstable incomes. The studies conducted within this project aim to:

identify long-term patterns of precarious labour market trajectories for various categories of youth based on the stability of their employment relationships and the persistence of fixed-term employment,
unravel the complex mechanisms affecting both the risk of entering precarious labour market trajectories and moving into secure employment under different national welfare and employment regimes,
assess the socio-economic consequences of such trajectories, taking into account conditional relationships which have not been given sufficient attention in earlier studies,
understand the ways in which micro-level changes in the employment patterns of individuals are reflected in macro-level changes in the social structure.
For the purpose of cross-national analyzes of precarious labour market careers, the project builds a new panel dataset called Cross National Biographies – Young (CNB-Young), by harmonizing biographical data for people age up to 35 from the four countries covered by the study. CNB-Young is the first cross-national quantitative dataset covering full employment histories of respondents starting from their first job, their education, changes in household composition, income, and health / well-being. The source data come from renowned, long-standing longitudinal surveys: the Polish Panel Survey (POLPAN), the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study – Understanding Society (UKHLS), and the U.S. NLSY79 Young Adult Survey. To ensure comparability of data collected in different countries, we apply harmonization procedures, which involve constructing control indicators reflecting differences in the original data and recording changes (e.g., rescaling, recoding) made to the source variables.

In addition, to enable a systematic analysis of cross-country differences, the project gathers and codes relevant contextual data characterising the legal regulations and institutional settings of the four countries under study over the past years (the Cross-national database). Including these data in the quantitative analyses allows to assess how the interplay of various individual characteristics and institutional factors affect workers’ chances of moving into secure employment, or mitigate the possible negative life-course outcomes of early career instability.


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