Youth Labour Market Transitions
In 2015, I began a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada entitled “National Futures or Emerging Crises: Youth Labour Market Integration Policies and Practices.” My collaborator is Dr. Tracey Skelton from the National University of Singapore.
The project involves a research team of graduate students from Singapore and Canada who collaborate through monthly virtual meetings and occasional data collection trips.
The study examines Singapore, which has experienced low youth unemployment through multiple recessions, as a site to explore youth labour market integration. Like Canada, Singapore is deeply embedded in the global economy. Unlike Canada, however, it has historically adopted a highly structured approach to youth labour market integration. Yet, there exists very little qualitative research on the experiences of youth within this context and some studies suggest that the approach used by Singapore may have differential benefits for youth based on their class, gender or race positions.
Through focus groups held in Singapore and Canada, data will be gathered on two research questions:
1) How are dominant youth labour market approaches (such as apprenticeships, educational steaming and career training) experienced by diversely situated youth
2) In what ways do these approaches challenge or reinforce existing social stratification along the lines of gender, race and class.
Youth under- and unemployment occurs in the context of gender and race hierarchies that intersect and complicate class positions which accompany specific “pathways” between education and employment. Recent theorists have noted not only the intersectionality of race, class and gender but also the ways in which such stratification is created or challenged through lived experiences of official policies. Following Ahmed (2012:6), our interest is not just on what documents, policies and programs “say but what they do.” The proposed project will examine the “on the ground” impact of youth labour market strategies through the experiential accounts of young people. Methodologically, the project will be guided by interpretive, qualitative methods where youth in Singapore will be invited to participate in focus groups to reflect on the effect of national policies and practices. In order to document the racialized and gendered impact of policies, focus groups will be conducted with young Malay, Indian and Chinese women and men. All groups will be designed to generate discussion on educational experiences, career prospects and aspirations.