Active Labor Market Programs for Youth: The Numbers Tell the Tale?

Active Labor Market Programs for Youth: The Numbers Tell the Tale?

Wendy Ida Elisabeth Wesseling (Tilburg University, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2779-5.ch003


Scholars from different fields have studied youth unemployment: its causes, consequences, and ways to tackle it. This chapter provides an overview of the most important results with a specific focus on effectiveness. Among the topics reviewed are the need for research regarding effectiveness, different methods to study effectiveness, and how the results of these methods are appraised. Then other factors than the research design are described to assess the practical significance of ALMPs, followed by a description of the results of recent reviews and meta-analyses. Finally, some selected factors that impact ALMP effectiveness are discussed. This chapter ends with a discussion of current debates and identification of future research opportunities.
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Even in times of prosperity, lay-offs and unemployment are common. Unemployment is associated with a range of interconnected and severe negative effects on the individual, society and the economy as a whole, now as well as in the future (ACEVO, 2012). The most apparent consequence of unemployment, namely loss of income, is an important moderator of unemployment on psychological and health outcomes (Hanisch, 1999). If no other income is available, job loss can result in housing problems and changes in social activities, which are no longer fundable, resulting in social isolation. Unemployment, and thus NEET status (Not in Employment, Education, or Training), is mentally distressing (Paul & Moser, 2009). In fact, job loss is one of the most stressfull life events (Holmes & Rahe, 1967). Common declines in mental health are increases of anxiety, substance abuse and decreases of self-esteem (Hanisch, 1999; McKee-Ryan, Song, Wanberg, & Kinicki, 2005; Paul & Moser, 2009; Wanberg, 2012). Due to increases of headaches and sleep problems, physical health also detoriates following job loss (Hanisch, 1999; Wanberg, 2012). Although job loss is generally perceived as negative, the effects are not universal across and possibly within people (Wanberg, 2012). When an individual is unemployed, further human and social capital acquisition is hindered, which in turn restricts one’s future chances on the labor market. Scarring effects and the extent of wage penalties are widely researched (e.g). The negative impact of unemployment is greater for youth than for adults (McKee-Ryan, Song, Wanberg, & Kinicki, 2005). The sustainability and stability of societies can be negatively affected by the unemployed, due to decreased social cohesion and increased (family) conflict. The economic loss due to NEET status was estimated by Eurofound (2012) to be €153 billion in 2011, which is about 1.2% of European GDP. This immense loss is the result of expenditure on welfare, education (no return on investment, reschooling), health, and justice. Since the costs of helping youth integrate into the labor market are about 13 times smaller than the public finance costs, the potential benefits of these efforts can be tremendous (Eurofound, 2012). Active labor market policies (henceforth referred to as ALMPs) are therefore gaining renewed interest from policymakers.

However, due to societal pressure and economic necessities increasing attention is being paid to evidence-based practices (henceforth referred to as EBP). EBP is “the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients” (Sackett, Rosenberg, Gray, Haynes, & Richardson, 1996, p.71). It employs the judicious use of:

  • The current best available external clinical evidence from systematic research;

  • The knowledge and expertise of the individual clinician;

  • The values, and preferences of the individual patient.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Evaluation Research: Research to establish whether and how an intervention works.

Intervention: A set of related activities undertaken to achieve a goal (in this chapter: reintegration into the labor market).

NEETs: Youth Not in Employment, Education, or Training.

Active Labor Market Policy (ALMP): Active labor market policy to help unemployed youth reintegrate into the labor market.

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP): The integration of evidence, clinical expertise and client preferences to make decisions about the care of individual.

(Systematic) Review: A summary and appraisal of all current literature on a specific topic.

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