This article emanates from a research project analyzing school-to-work transitions in a biographical perspective. 52 young unemployed adults (25-29 years) from three Swedish municipalities with highly varying socioeconomic/demographic conditions (a rural area, a well-situated and a vulnerable suburb) were interviewed. It is highlighted how the local context (and gender) influences their journeys through education, working life and career guidance.
Four different career patterns are identified (yoyo-transitions, staying and moving mainly within either education, work or exclusion), which shape their past experiences, present situation and hopes for the future. These patterns are locally influenced. Young people in the rural area are over-represented in the yoyo-transition pattern, while those in the well-situated suburb more often can be found on the educational road. Finally exclusion (permanent unemployment or absence of a stable job) mainly emerges among those living in the vulnerable suburb.
Rural interviewees feel restricted regarding local possibilities in education and working life, and demonstrate distinctive strategies. Respondents in the vulnerable suburb identify social capital as crucial to make one´s way, while education has particularly high value in the well-situated suburb. The young adults´ narratives illustrate that locality and gender are interwoven. For example, in suggesting future career goals some of them address critical problems in their community that differs between men and women.
Interventions when young people choose upper secondary school and varying unemployment schemes illustrate that public career guidance is shaped by, and reproduce, local structures. Young adults´ main counter-strategy towards career guidance which is perceived as endangering personal goals is to avoid institutions/officials; to “manage by oneself”. Other approaches differ due to local context and gender. Negotiation efforts are mostly done by men in the rural area and hardly at all by women living in the suburbs, while a misleading strategy is demonstrated by a few women in all three municipalities.
Individuals develop responses to local possibilities and limitations depending on economic and institutional structures as well as cultural values. What is “marketable” for a young adult woman or man in the three contexts varies, and contributes to explain the differences in individual strategies.
European Sociological Association , 2009.
9th Conference of the European Sociology Association (ESA), Lisbon, Portugal 2-5 September, 2009