On November 26th, during the POLPAN Seminar, Dr. Anna Kiersztyn (University of Warsaw) presented a talk entitled “The Dynamics of Youth Employment Precarity: A Proposal for Harmonizing Life-course Panel Data.”
Over the past decades, there has been an increasing interest among sociologists and economists in the issue of labour market insecurity. This is related to the proliferation of the so-called non-standard or flexible forms of employment. Despite common claims of the importance of this problem and its potentially far-reaching social consequences, researchers still face difficulties in clearly defining employment precarity for the purpose of systematic, quantitative analysis.
This presentation will discuss the Cross National Biographies – Young (CNB-Young) research project which plans to test research hypotheses regarding the size and characteristics of precarious employment, its causes and consequences, in a cross-national perspective. 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 analysis of this phenomenon is possible by an examination of career sequences using data from panel studies, which survey the same respondents over many years. To enable such analyzes, as part of the project, we will create a new panel dataset, which will contain biographical data for people aged up to 35 from four countries: Poland, Germany, Great Britain and the USA. These will be data from the following surveys: the Polish Panel Survey (POLPAN), the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the British Household Longitudinal Study – Understanding Society (UKHLS), and the U.S. NLSY79 Young Adult Survey.
CNB-Young is the first attempt to harmonize detailed longitudinal information on the characteristics of the respondents’ successive employment spells (starting from their first job), their full educational histories, income and household composition, and health/well-being indicators. As such, it moves beyond the existing large-scale ex-post harmonization efforts, which either concern cross-sectional data or contain only a very limited set of harmonized panel variables with respect to employment or educational history. This offers potential for substantial methodological advances related to ex-post survey data harmonization, but at the same time poses numerous challenges which will need to be addressed.
I will start with a presentation of the background and rationale of the CNB-Young proposal, and then move on to a discussion of the problems involved in the selection of the source variables from each survey, conceptualization of the target indicators, dealing with differences in survey methodology and the country-level institutional and regulatory context.