This interdisciplinary project carries out a multi-country study on youths’ labour market integration in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan in times of increasing uncertainty. Based on a micro-macro theoretical model we study the opportunities and constraints young individuals face during their transition from education to work in different cultural, economic and institutional contextual settings. Original data are produced in a mixed-method approach with a focus on conducting three large-scaled quantitative youth surveys (N=2,000 persons per country) and supplementary qualitative in-depth interviews in a comparative design in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan. The explicit focus on studying the dynamic processes of youth transitions in a life course perspective represents the key innovation of the project. A multidimensional perspective on both objective and subjective dimensions of the situation of young people is applied in order to reach a holistic assessment and to understand how objective conditions are translated into subjective youth identities and vice versa. At the institutional level, it is analysed how education and training institutions, labour market institutions and related segmentation, welfare institutions and family/gender regimes ease or hamper youth chances of a successful integration into gainful employment. By performing comparative analyses examples of best practices and recommendations for institutional reforms and policies will be developed that help to improve the transition from school-to-work in particular and the socio-economic situation of youths in general in the South Caucasus and Central Asian region.

In the following, the single working packages of the project are described.

WP1: Conceptual framework

The aim of WP1 is to develop a conceptual framework. This framework will be used to guide the analyses in WPs2-6. It clarifies the empirical phenomenon under study, defines key concepts properly (which is very important in an interdisciplinary research team), integrates different theories and empirical findings from sociology, psychology, demography, geography and economics to investigate interdisciplinary this phenomenon, specifies hypotheses and details the distinct research designs of the planned quantitative and qualitative analyses. Moreover, based on the theoretical model a proposal for the survey design is developed.

WP2: Description of institutional context and reforms

The aim of WP2 is to provide a description of relevant institutional settings in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan that shape the context in which youths’ transitions to adulthood take place. The starting point will be a very general overview of the institutional setting of post-socialist countries. According to a common template, each project partner will compile a country report that documents the country-specific institutional context in which youth transitions take place in detail for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan. The results from these country reports will be used as input for a comprehensive conceptual framework for understanding dynamics in youth labour market integration.

WP3: Development and implementation of the quantitative, large-scaled youth surveys

Based on the conceptual framework, WP3 is dedicated to preparing the quantitative surveys. In collaborative work of all national survey specialists a questionnaire is developed. In particular, the content, type, order and wording of questions as well as the response formats are specified following theoretical constructs and interests. All partners translate the survey questionnaire for their respective country taking national specificities into account but keeping maximal comparability across countries. A draft version of the questionnaire will be tested in each country in a pre-test. Pre-test findings and suggestions for improving the questionnaire are collected from each country team and are used to revise the questionnaire. Interviewers will be carefully selected and receive an intensive training, particularly, in collecting retrospective life history data. 2000 interviews in each country will be conducted based on the questionnaire and survey plan. Quality assurance of interview quality will be implemented by several measures during the survey period. The data generated by the three youth surveys need to be processed into an electronic database, cleaned and checked for consistency, which is followed by the setup of an intuitive and transparent system for data management.

WP4: Descriptive analyses of youths’ transitions

Once the surveys are completed, all partners conduct descriptive analyses of the data generated based on the retrospective data on youths’ transition collected in each country, each country team describes the timing and characteristics in the transition from education to work providing basic descriptive statistics.  Following the transition to adulthood concept, the time order of the different youth transition events in the fields of education, the labour market, family and migration processes are described. In terms of social inequality, the country teams will analyse how different subgroups of youths differ in their transition processes by providing statistics differentiated by ascriptive factors (sex, ethnicity) and resources (education, family background).

WP5: Multivariate analyses of youths’ transitions

In the next step, detailed multivariate statistical analyses of the dynamic life course data are conducted. Based on our micro-macro-theoretical model and the specified research hypotheses multivariate analyses are conducted using advanced techniques of dynamic life course data analysis such as event history analysis and modern causal analysis. Specifically, (A) the issue of the functioning of education and training institutions is analysed by analysing the effects of education and training certificates on youth labour chances. (B) The issue of labour market institutions and the resulting labour market segmentation is analysed by investigating the determinants (role of ascriptive factors and resources) and career consequences of entering a first job in different labour market segments (formal job, informal job, family business, agricultural subsistence work, self-employment). (C) The interrelationship of youths’ school-to-work transition and family formation processes are analysed accounting for differences in family regimes across countries and gender differences into account. (D) The determinants of youth attitudes and youth subjective assessment of their situation are analysed from a psychological/development life course perspective.

WP6: Complementary qualitative in-depth interviews with youths

The quantitative survey study shall be complemented by 30 in-depth studies of youths per country. Based on the first insights from the quantitative studies guidelines for semi-structured interviews are developed and interviewers are trained. The in-depth studies aimed at producing a more fine-grained understanding of the subjective interpretation and identity formation among youth youths. After conducting the interviews, the interviews are analysed using qualitative methods.

WP7: Dissemination strategies and policy recommendations

WP7 refers to the dissemination activities, which will be carried out throughout the entire project duration and place particular emphasis on social media (Twitter and Facebook). The project and project results will be also presented at public lectures, public debates and policy briefing. The synthesis of the findings enables us to formulate policy recommendations, which represents another major task of this WP.

WP8: Management

WP8 is dedicated to establishing and maintaining effective management structures. The goal of WP8 is to ensure the timely and qualitative achievement of project results through scientific and administrative coordination.