Estonian Stakeholders` Voices in the Debate of Youth Labour Market Trajectories and In-Work-Poverty Risk

In December, the Tallinn University team gathered key Estonian stakeholders to discuss the labour market participation and work trajectories of young adults and its impact on the in-work poverty risk in Estonia and other European countries. The Public Research Seminar took place at the School of Governance, Law and Society at Tallinn University. The meeting brought together experts in the field to discuss the labour market situation and in-work poverty of young adults in Estonia, as well as the barriers faced in mapping, researching and fostering policies to overcome in-work poverty it. More than 40 attendees from academia, public sector (ministries) and independent research bodies took part in the hybrid meeting.  

The participation of young adults in the labour market and its success or failure has received a lot of attention as it tends to have a strong impact on various areas of life of young adults. It has implications on the young adult`s  health and well-being, autonomy, family formation and fertility decisions, just to list some of the key areas. While employment has usually been considered the best and safest way to avoid or escape from poverty, about one tenth of young adults in Europe live in poverty despite of active participation in the labour market.  As pointed out by the representative of one of the key stakeholders, the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, we still known little about the in-work poverty of young adults and about the effects of policy measures on it. Research findings we presented at the seminar indicated that labour market exclusion and/or uncertainty in early stage of labour market career can have long-lasting scars on the young  adults` labour market prospects. However, our research findings also suggest that it’s not only the labour market participation per se that matters, but also the course and trajectory of the early career. Under favourable conditions, these will lead to decent jobs and income levels and prevent young women and men from being trapped in poverty while being (full-time) employed.

The meeting shed new light on the labour market participation challenges for young adults, especially in Estonia. Experts and stakeholders shared their insights highlighting the most recent findings and developments. Attention was also paid to best practices and future steps, considering both keeping better track on the early careers and labour market situation of young adults in Estonia and the (potential or known) effect of different policy measures on it. Under special scrutiny was the role and effect of minimum income scheme on in-work poverty risk of young adults. The findings of the EUROSHIP project have shown that higher levels of minimum income (relative to mean or median income) tend to reduce the perceived poverty risk for young adults active in the labour market.  Furthermore, higher levels of minimum income can moderate the usually negative effect of insecure employment trajectories on labour income levels.