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The school-to-work transition is a crucial life stage for young people, and research has often shown that this stage has important effects on their entire life courses. In recent years, young people willing to enter the labour market have been challenged by increasing uncertainty and comparatively high unemployment. These labour market trends have been attributed to several structural changes, including globalisation, rise in international competition, technological change and the recent economic crisis. At the same time, the structure of labour supply has changed. Tertiary education in EU Member States has substantially expanded and the educational attainment of recent female graduates is now at parity or even exceeds that of their male counterparts. However, research has also demonstrated that even with considerable gains in education, women continue to have unequal labour market outcomes. Isolating gender differences in the transition from school to work and examining why these differences may emerge, has been largely ignored until now. Our report uses directly comparable data across the EU to examine whether there is a gendered transition from school to work, which can provide evidence to allow nations to reform their social welfare systems in a more tailored way by learning from each other and identifying policies and institutional systems that work the best. For our empirical analyses, we draw on the EU Labour Force Survey 2009 ad hoc module 2009 'Entry of Young People into the Labour Market', which focuses on individuals aged 15–34 years living in 27 EU Member States plus Iceland and Norway.

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This research was commissioned by the European Commission Directorate General for Justice and Fundamental Rights. The study was jointly undertaken by RAND Europe and the University of Groningen.

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