Children, Youth and Development
The 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).
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 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.
For this it welcomes applications from senior researchers to develop a research project on Food, Consumption and Youth. The contract would be for a year and includes a € 42,000 salary and € 9,000 for travel expenses. Call for research proposals ends on 30 March 2014.
Los candidatos deberán haber obtenido su doctorado en un plazo de 10 años previos al cierre de la convocatoria. Se exceptúan casos de maternidad (un año por hijo hasta un máximo de tres).
In the coming weeks we will be featuring a number of contributions written by course participants of the MA elective ‘ISS-4235 Young People and Work: Theory, Practice, and Policy‘ (for an early post in this series see HERE).
There are many views on minimum wage regulations for young people and especially on youth rates. The ILO encourages its member-states to implement minimum wage regulations for reducing poverty and ensuring social protection (ILO 2013, p: 35). However some countries have a specific minimum wage for young people, a so-called youth rate, next to a general minimum wage. The Netherlands has taken this exercise yet another step further and has minimum wage regulations by age for young people aged 15 through to 22. It is only at age 23 that young people qualify for the adult-level minimum wage.
In the Netherlands the minimum wage for 15 years is € 2.57 per hour (gross, and calculated on the basis of a 40 hrs workweek) and there is 15%-17% increase for subsequent ages till 23. The minimum wage for adults (23 years and older) stands at € 8.57 per hour – more than three times the minimum wage of 15 year olds.
The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment justifies this age-based minimum wage because it considers young workers less trained and experienced; their needs are less than those of adults; and because it is feared that high earnings would make work relatively more attractive compared to education (lecture notes ISS-4234, minimum (w)age session; lecturer Karin Astrid Siegmann).
Age-based minimum wage regulations seem favourable to employers and business persons as it allows them to legally exploit the productivity of young people at relatively low costs. This was illuminated in our visit to Albert Heijn, a large Dutch retailer.
We were told that more than 75% of the employees were employed on the basis of short term, fixed contracts and more than 40% of them belong to the age group of 15-18 years. It is noteworthy that various forms of work were done by adults as well as young people (e.g. work at check-out counters), and that there was no age difference in expectations about the performance of this work. Hence, by employing young people instead of adults Albert Heijn appears to cut its salary expenses with no loss of productivity. A situation made possible by Dutch age-based minimum wage regulations.
FNV, a Dutch trade union, has argued against age-based minimum wages as it views it a form of discrimination. It argues that when young people reach the age of majority (18 in the Netherlands) they should qualify for the adult-based minimum wage. Employer’s organizations in Netherlands argue that such a proposal world lead to an increase in youth unemployment. Such a position appears indeed supported by Canadian research on the abolishment of a youth rate, it found ‘some evidence that abolishing…youth rates significantly lowered employment and work hours of 15- to 16-year-olds’. But it also notes cautiously that there are also ‘questions regarding the interpretations of the results’ (Shannon 2011, p: 629).
Coming from India, I strongly feel that there should be protective tools regulating the labour market especially the employment of young people. This includes minimum wages and decent work conditions. Hence, while there is reason to be critical of age-based minimum wage regulations, not having any (effective) minimum wage for young people might still be a worse situation.
Guest contribution by Pranab K. Chanda (ISS MA in Development Studies, major Social Policy for Development)
FREE ACCESS till the end of the month to all articles in the European Journal of Development Research SPECIAL ISSUE ‘Generationing’ Development: Situating Children and Youth in Development Processes.
This is what Nicola Ansell wrote about the collection:
The articles in this special issue present a persuasive case for accounts of development to recognise the integral and fundamental roles played by age and generation (p.283)
The articles in this collection emphasise that young people are worthy of research not simply because they are numerous, have different perspectives and are affected by change differently from adults, but because they play a role, intentionally or otherwise, in economic and social processes of transformation that affect everyone. (p.289).
The organisation claims that about 3 million children and over 400 organisations in more than 100 countries will get involved in a range of activities and programmes related to the ‘Global Money Week’, all with the aim of:
‘empowering young people and getting them involved to reshape finance and their own future‘
In the Netherlands, the week is linked to a Dutch Ministry of Finance stimulated public-partnership called ‘More knowledgeable about money’ (Wijzer in geldzaken) which includes the component ‘financial education‘ for children.
Why this concern about children and money?
A research report (2013) by the Dutch National Institute for Family Finance Information found that 45% of the 5-year olds in the Netherlands receive pocket money (0,50 Euro per week on average) and 84% of the 11 and 12 year olds (2-3Euro per week). 45% of the surveyed children (all of primary school age; 5-12 year old) would occasionally do tasks for money (such as gardening, tidying, washing cars, etc). 91% of the children receive money through ways other than work or pocket money (e.g. as gifts on particular occasions). 47% of the children have a bank account in their own name and out of these children 45% have their own bank card.
These figures suggests that money takes an important presence in the lives of Dutch primary school children and that they are already engaged in a range of financial institutions and transactions. In that light, a focus on financial education may indeed be appropriated.
However, such figures tell only part of the story. A further story is told by taking a look at the ‘partners‘ behind the Dutch part of the ‘money week’. The presence of banks and insurance companies is striking. The story behind Child and Youth Finance International appears similar. Although they keep their ‘partners and stakeholders‘ elusively hidden behind a search bar, punching in the search term ‘bank’ yields indeed numerous hits. Furthermore, the Citi Foundation is of its main partners and seems to have a considerable influence on the work of Child and Youth Finance International. This evident from the idea of ‘financial inclusion’, which features prominently on the Citi Foundation webpage, and is also embraced as a central principle by Child and Youth Finance International. The latter uses the following definition of financial inclusion in one of their research publications (Sherraden, M. S. and D. Ansong (2013). Conceptual Development of the CYFI Model of Children and Youth as Economic Citizens. St. Louis, MO, Washington University, Center for Social Development (CSD)):
‘a state in which all people who can use them have access to a suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner, and with dignity for the clients’ (p8)
It continues to elaborate that ‘at a minimum, this includes saving, credit, insurance and payments to facilitate economic transactions, manage day-to-day resources, improve quality of life, protect against vulnerability, make productivity-enhancing investments, leverage assets, and build economic citizenship‘.
Financial inclusion appears, for a good part, to be about bringing children into the realm of financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies. Indeed, the above quoted research report talks in this vain about ‘unbanked populations’ and identifies young people as an important segment of the ‘unbanked’.
The Global Money Week, thus, seems to be as much a response to a reality in which money indeed takes an important presence in many children’s lives as it is a form of capitalist expansion turning yet unbanked children into a banked population in the name of financial inclusion.
posted by Roy Huijsmans
Children and youth are clearly present in much development research and practice. Yet, how is young people’s position in development conceptualised? Is it conceptualised at all, or are the young mainly targets of interventions and variables in analysis?
A Special Issue publication in the European Journal of Development Research goes someway in answering these questions. It presents the idea of ‘generationing’ development. This requires firstmost adopting a relational approach to studying children and youth in developing contexts. This indeed contrasts with widespread categorising approaches in which children and youth are defined on the basis of chronological age. Such approaches typically amount to a false homogenisation of highly diverse age-based categories and obfuscate important relations connecting young people with other generational grouping.
The relational approach underpinning the papers in the special issue is outlined in the Introductory article entitled ‘Theorising Age and Generation in Development: A relational approach‘. This conceptual work, the authors argue, goes someway towards a better understanding of the interface between development studies and children and youth studies. This is important because these two areas of theory and practice have developed into vibrant bodies of literature. Yet, the theoretical and conceptual work coming from children and youth studies has informed development studies only to a limited degree and vice versa.
The Institute for Child and Youth Studies at the University of Lethbridge (Canada) is inviting applications for a Post-doctoral fellowship expected to commence in September 2014. For details, please go HERE.
Since the summer of 2013, the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has regularly featured in Dutch national news for the apparently novel introduction of study support for its largely young and school-going work workforce (see HERE, HERE and HERE).
What’s happening here? Since September 2013 some Amsterdam based supermarkets have been offering free study support to their young school-going workers. The support is offered by university students (not trained teachers) on the workfloor (before and/or after work), and to this end a computer and WIFI have been made available to the young workers.
In line with Dutch labour regulations, Albert Heijn, like other Dutch retailers, employs teenagers starting from 15 years of age. Dutch minimum wages are age-based; the younger the worker the lower the minimum age till the age of 23 is reached. Young workers are further attractive for the flexible nature that characterises the comtemporary organisation of labour in the Dutch retail sector.
According to acclaimed supermarket expert Gerard Rutte, the introduction of study support to the workfloor might have less to do with a concern on part of Albert Heijn with the study performance of their young workers, and more with expanding the market share in the highly competitive Dutch retail sector. By offering study support, Albert Heijn hopes to increase the loyalty among its young workers as well as its quality. Albert Heijn thus expands the boundaries of competitiveness beyond the branding and pricing of its products to include the service quality of its young workforce.
Whether this will positively affect Albert Heijn’s market share will be hard to tell. At any rate however, this novel strategy generated some free, nationwide publicity for the supermarket chain (and yes, this blog posting contributes to this too…)
posted by Roy Huijsmans
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.