Youth work

Young people experience the world of work differently. Here we explore how.


Youth work

Dr Belgin Okay-Somerville

Young people experience the world of work differently. Being at the start of careers, they are in the progress forming career identities and building experience and networks. Developing employability for successful labour market entry is therefore particularly important for young workers. However, young people in contemporary labour markets are amongst the most vulnerable to economic downturns, e.g., the 2008 Great Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 related recession, as they are often on precarious contracts, e.g., zero-hours, with little social protection and poor job quality (e.g., autonomy and skill use).  Lack of employment opportunities that allow young people to build skills and experience progress is a major social problem faced by many industrialised nations over the last few decades. There are simply not enough jobs for young people and the jobs that do exist, are increasingly low-skilled, low-pay jobs with limited opportunities for growth. Nurturing young people’s employability and productivity at work is crucial for maintaining and sustaining their involvement in the world of work. Young people are the future of work! Youth unemployment and underemployment have implications at the individual (e.g., young people’s relationships, wellbeing, cognitive development, career development and lifetime earnings), social (e.g., criminal engagement and exclusion from society, and social mobility), and economic (e.g., underutilisation of labour force) levels.

The youth employment challenge is multi-faceted involving many key areas that are within the expertise of work and organisational psychology (WOP). For instance, vocational psychology research on employability, job search, career competencies, school-to-work transitions and career development is crucial for preparing young people for labour market entry. Similarly, research on understanding the experience and consequences of youth unemployment and underemployment have implications for devising better intervention programmes and advising national skill policies to support young people into meaningful work. We know that certain groups of young people, e.g., based on ethnicity or social disadvantage, are more likely to be unemployed or overqualified. WOP research has much to offer on diversity and inclusion for improving young people’s labour market experience. Moreover, our research on work design and job quality is highly relevant for ensuring young people’s work is motivating and relevant for further career development. WOP research on young people’s use of technology and social media, and employment in new forms of work is also highly relevant for contemporary discussions on the future of work.


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Illustrations of the Youth Employment Challenge: A Digital Exhibition

Dr Belgin Okay-Somerville

An online exhibition of illustrations of the youth (un)employment challenge organised as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

During the event, illustrations produced as a result of the week-long online small group meeting on Young People’s Work, Employment and Careers were displayed.

We have uploaded five short videos with those illustrations from the Festival of Social Science's closing panel discussion and the panel members’ views on improving youth employment systems. 

 Young People’s Work,
Employment and Careers


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A special issue of the EAWOP Practitioner's E-Journal on Young People's Work, Employment and Careers.

This Special Issue features a mix of full-length empirical papers and stakeholder interviews focusing on key themes related to youth employment, a global social and economic challenge.