‘Does the work-study combination among youth improve the transition path?’

23 May 2016

by Bjorn Nillson

International Labor Office, Work4Youth. 2015.

The report is available here.


While a considerable worldwide literature base exists debating both the positive and negative outcomes for young people participating in part time employment whilst in school, the majority of the literature fails to consider trends within developing countries. This study addresses this gap by using the International Labor Office’s school-to-work transition survey (STWS) data in questioning whether working part time whilst in education has a causal impact upon individuals in developing countries.

Specifically, Nillson explores whether part time work enables a smoother transition from school to work for young people. An individual is deemed to have successfully ‘transitioned’ if they are either in employment which is stable and satisfactory or self-employment. Situated within the context of the developing world it is acknowledged that cultural differences may impact the results obtained. Typically, decisions surrounding education and employment are considered at the household level and are influenced by parental figures. Within developing countries it is common for eldest children to benefit over their siblings in their education as they are directed toward stable employment to support their families. Female children are more likely to attend education less regularly, in order to assist with domestic duties.

Analysis was conducted on the STWS survey data of 28 countries across 2012/13. The young people were not students at the time the survey was conducted and so it is acknowledged that the data may be potentially flawed as a result. Furthermore, precise data on attendance and grade achievement is missing. Three questions within the survey were considered to be useful for the study:

  • Did you ever work while you studied (not including apprenticeship)?
  • What was your primary motivation in working while studying?
  • Did you have one or more internships/apprenticeships with an employer as part of your education?

In total, there were 90,095 respondents to the first question, with 21,922 reporting to have being employed at some stage of their education.

The results found that young people are more likely to have transitioned into employment which was stable, satisfactory or self-employment when they have combined their education with employment during and outside the school season, in comparison to those who have only worked outside the school season. Only five countries – Benin, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal and Vietnam – found that individuals who were not employed during their education were more likely to have successfully transitioned.

Additionally, those who worked whilst in education were less likely to become unemployed. Unemployment rates were lower in all countries (with the exceptions of Moldova and Tanzania) for those who combined work and study both outside and during the schooling period. However, this finding may be misleading due to the fact that wealthier young people can afford to be unemployed for longer periods and may have no reason to work during school.

The transition period into employment which is stable, satisfactory or self-employment after leaving schooling was shortest for those young people who had combined school and work. The period was 4.3 months, in comparison to 9.2 months for students who had not been employed during their education.

Whilst the results found that employment outcomes were largely positive for individuals who worked during their schooling, no benefits were found in terms of being able to accrue ‘better’ jobs – defined as access to entitlements (paid leave) or the type and duration of the contract.

Responses to the question ‘What was your primary motivation in working while studying?’ were classified as either a ‘career-building’ type of motivation or ‘family’ type of motivation. Those who had embarked upon employment during school as an opportunity to focus on their career ambitions did not transition more successfully, and neither were they more satisfied with their job, than those young people who had worked to support their families economically. However, those who were career-focused during their employment were more likely to report higher educational attainment results. 20% of the respondents who entered into work during school for economic reasons did not continue their education past the primary level. Countries with high levels of students working for career purposes had higher levels of tertiary graduates.

The results of these correlations go some way in evidencing that employment during education has positive outcomes in the developing world, particularly in relation to lower unemployment levels and smoother transition periods.

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