School leavers and employment
This study focuses its attention upon the experiences of a cohort of new entrants into the labour market in a period of mass unemployment. It is based upon information gathered in 1982 and 1983, through the use of both personal interview and postal questionnaires, from a group of young people who left schools, aged 16, in the Motherwell District of Lanarkshire in the Summer of 1982, supplemented where appropriate with data from official sources and that collected by the Motherwell Labour Market Project. That a study of young people entering the labour market should be undertaken stems mainly from the rising tide of unemployment which has hit most if not all western economies. This recession has particularly affected the young and whilst concern has been shown for all victims of unemployment the young have received most attention, for they are seen not only as innocent victims but also as the most vulnerable group for whom the experience of unemployment is likely to have the most serious and lasting impact. It is hoped that this study will give some insight into the transition from school to work at time of mass unemployment. A major theme which runs throughout the study is 'labour market information' as we believe that it is people's perceptions about situations which affect behaviour and the accuracy of their information may have implications for labour market success as this could affect their behaviour within the labour market, e.g. job search activity, participation decision at 16. It is through our analysis of a number of different issues during the transition from school to work that we hope to build up a picture of the transition period in the early 1980's and gain some impression as to the importance of labour market information. The specific areas of analysis are: (i) the school leaving decision (ii) the local labour market knowledge (iii) provision of occupational information (iv) job search behaviour (v) labour market experiences. A brief description of our results follows. Our analysis of the school leaving decision at 16 aimed to identify factors which would explain why some young people left school at the earliest opportunity. In building our model we reviewed economic theories, economic literature and educational and sociological literature to obtain suggestions as to possible variables to include in our analysis. As expected, the academically able were less likely to leave school at 16 as were those who had a pessimistic view of the unemployment situation facing young people - the discouraged worker effect. An interesting finding was a negative co-efficient attached to the wage variable, possibly indicating a backward bending supply curve of youth labour, or a lack of knowledge of youth wages - we elected to argue for the latter explanation. Our analysis of young people's knowledge of their local labour market justified the above conclusion. The sample exhibited a considerable degree of ignorance about the youth (and adult) labour market, though their knowledge of the Youth Opportunities Programme was on the whole accurate. The sample consistently under-estimated the level of wages paid to both young people and adults and over-estimated both youth unemployment and adult unemployment rates. In attempting to explain the degree of under/over estimation we argued that possible confusion over the terms `gross pay' and `unemployment rate' may have been partly responsible. Explaining variations between sample members' answers was less successful - chi-square statistics invariably failed to reach the desired level. Attempts by schools to impart occupational information and prepare young people for entry into the world of work went largely unnoticed by the sample. Careers Evenings, work-experience courses, careers education classes, did not appear to make any real impression upon the sample, the vast majority of whom felt that their final year at school had been a poor preparation for entry into the world of work. Only one-in-three of the sample had been interviewed by the Careers Service at the time of our initial contact which makes an assessment of their role in preparing young people for entering the labour market somewhat difficult. A considerable degree of job search activity was undertaken by the sample prior to leaving school and for the first six months after labour market entry. Extensive use was made of the various information channels both in terms of the number of different channels used and the frequency with which they were consulted. Despondancy resulting from lack of success crept in and search intensity declined in 1983. Although over 1300 applications were submitted, only 26 members of the sample contacted in 1983 had secured employment. Attempting to identify factors which may account for the success of these 26 individuals led us to search theory, and the literature on unemployment duration/re-employment probabilities to suggest variables to include in our model. A number of factors were found to be significant - number of jobs applied for, intensity of search, religious affiliation of school, sex, when began search - though a large degree of the variance was still left unexplained. Having discussed the many issues outlined above, we are able to offer some insight into the transition from school to work in the early 1980's and assess the important of labour market information in the transition period. The sample's lack of knowledge of youth wages and youth unemployment would not appear to have had an undesirable effect upon their job search behaviour. Under-estimating wages and over-estimating unemployment could have led to deciding not to search for work - the financial incentive was not there and there were few jobs anyway - but we found evidence of considerable search activity in 1982. Information pertaining to vacancies is obviously vitally important. For the majority in our sample the transition from school to work did not happen. They were caught up in the xiv unemployment - Y.o.P. - unemployment circle, with little hope of a job in their early years in the labour market.