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Young adults in Switzerland: tertiary education makes a difference

What happened fifteen years later to the young people who left compulsory schooling in 2000? A study by Thomas Meyer published in the series Social Change in Switzerland shows that at the age of 30 the vast majority of them is working and earning nearly 6000 Swiss francs per month. This article highlights the protective effect of higher education diplomas. However, inequalities between men and women still persist.

On the basis of data from the TREE longitudinal study (Transitions from Education to Employment), Thomas Meyer shows that transitions between school and labour have become longer since the beginning of the 21st century. These transitions are marked, for many young people in Switzerland, by important discontinuities, reorientations and gap years.

Almost half the examined cohort left the education system with a vocational training (apprenticeship) certificate; 40% obtained a tertiary diploma (university, university of applied sciences or higher vocational education) – twice as much as in the preceding generation; and 10% have remained without any kind of post-compulsory education.

The situation on the labour market at age 30 is generally good: the rate of occupational activity is high, unemployment is low, and the median monthly income reaches close to 6000 Swiss francs. While young people without post-compulsory are more significantly affected by precarious employment conditions compared to those who gained vocational training, both groups differ little in terms of unemployment rate and average salary.

In contrast, the holders of a tertiary degree earn on average 1000 Swiss francs more than those without higher education. Thus, while young people regardless of their level of qualification are very well integrated into the Swiss job market, workforce demand is particularly high – and so the wages – for those who achieved higher education.

Thomas Meyer underlines the extent to which gender, in combination with the family situation, continues to influence employment among people in their thirties. Whereas almost all young fathers work full-time, one in five young mothers leaves the job market and three out of four mothers work part-time. Last but not least, in terms of income wages, differences between men and women amount to 800 Swiss francs per month.

>> Thomas Meyer (2018). Von der Schule ins Erwachsenenleben: Ausbildungs- und Erwerbsverläufe in der Schweiz / De l’école à l’âge adulte: parcours de formation et d’emploi en Suisse. Social Change in Switzerland No 13. Retrieved from www.socialchangeswitzerland.ch

Contact : Thomas Meyer, +41 31 631 38 23, thomas.meyer@soz.unibe.ch

The series Social Change in Switzerland documents the evolution of Switzerland’s social structure. It is edited by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, the Life Course and Inequalities Research Centre of the University of Lausanne LINES , and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES). The aim is to monitor change in employment, family, income, mobility, voting, or gender in Switzerland. Based on cutting edge empirical research, the series targets a wider audience than just academic experts.