Description of the project

Increasing youth employment is a grand societal challenge for contemporary European societies. Migrant Youth Employment – Recognition of Capabilities and Boundaries of Belonging (RECOGNITION) (2014-2018) studies the preconditions of employment for migrant youth in Finland. Our project focuses on how migrant youth (15–24 years of age) are recognised as capable and employable by institutional agents (employment officers and youth workers) and employers, and how young people with migration histories recognise their own capabilities in relation to employment.

We assert that being recognised as capable for full-time employment is crucial for young individuals’ sense of belonging in the society. However, migrant youth confront specific obstacles and challenges when seeking employment. We conceptualise these obstacles and challenges as symbolic and social boundaries. The aim of this project is to provide novel information on the challenges and opportunities migrant youth encounter when seeking employment as well as to convey evidence on the outcomes of employment activation programmes.

A central starting point in our project is that migrant youth unemployment is not only related to lack of available jobs, but a much more complex problem, in which skill mismatching and different forms of misrecognition, including forms of structural misrecognition play a crucial role (Näre 2013).

We argue that what determines the employment opportunities and the outcomes of activation measures for migrant youth depends on the recognition of migrant youth as employable and capable by employers and key institutional agents (employment officers, youth workers). In this recognition, employers and institutional agents apply categorical knowledge and classify young people, i.e. participate in symbolic and social boundary-making processes. Migrant youth are not outsiders in these processes, but participate in these boundary-making processes by reproducing and re-negotiating classifications and categorisations (of themselves, their peers, others and the institutional agents). We argue that it is in these processes of recognition and boundary making that the preconditions of migrant youth employment and the premises for their belonging in the society are produced and reproduced. The research objective is then to analyse the kinds of symbolic boundary making processes in place in relation to migrant youths’ access to employment and the recognition of capabilities within these processes.

RECOGNITION is a 4-year project which started in January 2014.

The project team is Assistant Professor Lena Näre, Dr. Lotta Haikkola, Dr. Elina Paju and M.Soc.Sc. Daria Krivonos. The project is based at the Department of Social Research, Unit of Sociology at the University of Helsinki Finland.

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The project team. From left to right: Daria Krivonos, Elina Paju, Lotta Haikkola, Lena Näre

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