» Archive for: April, 2014

Development Dialogue

Category: conferences

24 Apr 2014

RTEmagicC_Logo_ISS-ANG-BUR-STE.jpgThe Development Dialogue is an annual conference organised by the ISS PhD community. The organisers welcome contributions related to this year’s conference theme ‘Rethinking Democracy: Challenges for global and local governance’.

The ISS is home to a vibrant research community comprised of faculty and MA/PhD students working on issues concerning children and youth in the context of development (see for example a recent ISS- hosted event on ‘Youth Research and Development‘). In that light we very much welcome contributions that approach the theme of ‘Rethinking democracy’ through the lens of children and youth (studies).

For further details on the 12th Development Dialogue watch THIS space or contact the organisers through: dd12@iss.nl


Our whole life is built around employment and labour. You go school to get a job, and you work to make a living. Generally speaking, people would agree that the harder you work, the more you can expect to be successful. Personally, I do not think that is true. I would say that notions of success and failure have become linked to one’s employment status and occupation and may have little relation with how hard one works. This produces a sense of superiority among the employed over the unemployed.

This idea of superiority was one of many seeds planted in my mind during lectures on the youth employment challenge and labour market policies in our course, Young People and Work, here at the ISS. Society values people based on employment status, and that labour and productivity are central in society was a feeling which grew even stronger after a guest-session by staff from the municipality of The Hague. After their presentation and discussion on current policies implemented to tackle the increasing unemployment rates, especially youth unemployment, it was clear that the Hague municipality is concerned with the youth employment challenge and invests a fair amount of money in various programs and policies aimed to address the problem of youth unemployment. However, I would argue, that it is just as clear that many of these programs are too shallow. Shallow in the sense that they reinforce the structures creating youth unemployment and segregation, rather than  dealing with the roots of the problem.

Let me explain this further:

Labour market policies in contemporary Europe can be seen as activation programmes. Even though there are examples from countries where it has been successful, Youth Guarantee Programs have been criticised as ‘cosmetic measures’ that do not address the  structural problem. Working full-time for nothing but the unemployment benefit, only to be active, does not empower the unemployed youth. Instead, it risks further stigmatising youth and contributes to further strengthening the power of capital (employers) vis-à-vis young workers.

The social construction of youth as irresponsible, absent-minded and not full citizens on par with adults, constructs that stick to unemployed youth in particular, works to legitimise youth development programmes that I would argue are disempowering for youth.

Concepts of youth entrepreneurship and innovation rapidly permeate the labour market. This results in an individualised environment, in which individuals themselves are blamed for their unemployment. This development is taking place at the same time as the current system could be argued to be characterised by jobless growth – the inability of turning economic growth into employment opportunities.

It seems quite evident that there is a discrepancy between economic growth and the creation of jobs. But where then is the economic growth invested?

Or what if it is not? What if it turns into profit, and goes down the pockets of the investors? Then, I would argue, it is not the unemployed youth that is the problem, but rather the employer. A solution to the constant youth unemployment can only be solved when the problem is identified, and in this case, when more pressure is put on employers. This could be done through regulative policies, putting pressure on employers and especially on private investors in the public sector, to actually invest in employment – as a mean to keep the quality of services provided on a high level.

Guest contribution by Rasmus Ahlstrand (Social Policy for Development major 2013-14)

MA Student in Social Policy for Development

International Institute of Social Science, The Hague


The German organisation Dreilinden has again announced two scholarships for an MA in Development Studies with focus on decent work for lesbian, gay, trans- and intersexual (LGBTI) persons.

The scholarships are attached to the ISS major programme Social Policy for Development (SPD) and recipients must specialise in the field of Work & Employment. Importantly, this latter field of specialisation includes the course ‘Young people and work: Theory, practice and policy’. Therefore, we very much welcome applications that seek to study the area of decent work for lesbian, gay, trans- and intersexual (LGBTI) persons from a generational perspective, or through the lens of youth studies.


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.