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Unpaid work could soon be the norm for all young jobseekers

imfo graphicEmployment researchers predict unpaid work could soon become the norm for all young people trying to enter the job market.

A team of researchers from the universities of Warwick, Leicester, Aston and the Open University are about to start a large-scale project to look at the often ‘unstable and fragmented’ experiences of young people as they begin their careers.

Previous studies from the University of Warwick revealed that 41% of graduates had taken on unpaid work experience during their course and after graduation. The public sector was shown to have the highest number of students and graduates who had carried out unpaid work.*

The new project, Precarious Pathways to Employment for Young People, will examine the experiences of all young people, not just graduates, from school leaving age upwards. The project is sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Project leader Professor Kate Purcell from the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research said: “For increasing numbers of young people in the UK, the pathways into employment to work are unstable and fragmented. As employers demand evidence of 'employability skills', work placements and internships have become an integral part of secondary and higher education, and of early labour market experience.

“Unpaid, temporary and part-time work may soon become the norm for all young people as they start on their chosen career paths. Much of this activity is unrecorded in employment statistics. The increased early labour market experience of (often involuntary) temporary or part-time work that provides experience of employment but does not provide a living wage for young job-seekers, adds to the precarious picture of current youth access to opportunity.”

The Precarious Pathways to Employment project will have four interlinked strands looking primarily at the areas of Coventry, Birmingham and Leicester, together with a broader analysis of employment trends and unwaged work in the UK.

Project 1 will look at the pathways to employment for young people in the Midlands during the 1930s, 1980s and 2000s. The team will use national and regional archive material on education, training and employment trends.

Project 2 will look at pathways into employment for school leavers. The team will identify 15-19 year-olds who do not intend to proceed to higher education and hold workshops to discuss the transition from education to employment.

Project 3 will look at the early career trajectories of 2009/10 graduates and investigate their subsequent and current labour market experiences.

Project 4 will look at employers’ practices and perspectives on the recruitment of young people into the labour market.

More information about the Precarious Pathways to Employment study can be found here:

Notes to editors

The study will run from June 2014 until April 2017. The current research team is:

· Professor Kate Purcell, Professor Peter Elias, Professor Anne Green, and Gaby Atfield from the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and Professor Noel Whiteside from the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

· Professor Phillip Mizen Department of Sociology, Aston University

· Professor Melanie Simms School of Management, University of Leicester

· Professor David Wilson Open University Business School

To speak to a member of the research team, please contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Senior Press and Communications Manager, University of Warwick,, 02476 150868, 07824 540863.

*Results taken from the Futuretrack research project



Kelly Parkes-Harrison - Senior Press and Communications Manager

E: k dot e dot parkes at warwick dot ac dot uk

T: 02476 150868