Presentation at the conference:
Urban Inequalities: Ethnographic Insights
(Corinth, Greece 20-22.06.2019)
‘Sharing the burden of unemployment: a critical theorization of the NEET phenomenon in the Mediterranean EU regions’
Effie EMMANOUIL, PhD Candidate in Economic and Labor Geography Department of Geography, University of the Aegean
Athina AVAGIANOU, PhD Candidate in Economic and Labor Geography Department of Geography, University of the Aegean
Stelios GIALIS, Assist. Professor in Economic and Labor Geography
Department of Geography, University of the Aegean
Since the past three decades, the EU and other nations have adopted “employment flexibilization” as an umbrella term for various policies and practices that promote non-permanent or atypical or precarious employment. In fact, the term has been more intensively applied since the 2008–2009 recession. Being a market-oriented reduction of typical labor
protection, often accompanied by unbalanced employee pay-offs in the form of enhanced security, flexibilization has been praised for its ability to eradicate barriers (i.e., rigidities) in labor market entry and boost employability. Within this context the term “social economy” has been regenerated through, among others, initiatives against unemployment driven by the notions of mutuality, common interest, autonomous and democratic governance. However, due to the recession and the deep socioeconomic reforms, the working population encounters not only escalating precariousness but also high increments in NEETs expansion (i.e. those that are Not in Employment Education or Training). This pro-capital transformation is related to increasing unemployment, but also to several other factors such as the condition of being socially excluded, discouragement and the rise of ‘delinquent behavior’.
This study has a threefold objective: i) to provide critical insights on the spatio-temporal trendsof labor flexibilization, ii) to analyze the interrelationships between flexibilization and the NEETs phenomenon and iii) to argue against the effectiveness of mainstream social economy practices and their true impact upon youth unemployment. The focus is on performed for Mediterranean EU countries at the NUTS-2 regional level for the past decade or so. The study’s major finding contradicts the prevailing beliefs that support a ‘healthy trade-of’ between flexibilization and social economy as a remedy to economic recessions and an instrument that boosts employment and productivity. Following a geographical-materialist framework of analysis, the results strongly support the wider skepticism that has recently developed about the pressing need to reassess adopted economic policies for labor market regulations and promote a radical change that fosters both socially-just growth and labor protection.