Workshop 2008 - Report
From September 5-6, 2008, the European Science Foundation (ESF) TransEurope Network organized its second yearly workshop, dealing with “Transnationalization, Globalization and their effects on mid-career mobility transitions” at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. The aim of the workshop was to bring together researchers working in the field of social mobility and life course studies and other interested scientists to discuss most recent research results in the field. In total, the workshop included 20 participants from six different countries.
The workshop featured a total of eight papers, including both international comparisons as well as nation-specific country studies, based on most recent European and national data sets such as the European Social Survey, recent Eurobarometer studies or nation specific surveys and panel studies. Topically, it covered the thematic focus of the third year of the TransEurope research (“Job mobility transitions”), but simultaneously also dealt with up-to-date issues on the European agenda policy such as the regulation of flexible employment forms or transnational migration. It thus not only significantly contributed to the scientific discussion in the field of life course and mobility research but also came to conclusions relevant to policy and decision makers. It thus is planned to publish a joint edited volume of proceedings from the 2008 TransEurope workshop and the workshop planned for the next research year in Tallinn (dealing with women’s fertility decisions and employment re-entry from care giving).
2. Description of the Scientific Content and Discussion
The workshop opened with a general welcome address and short thematic introduction by the Programme Chair, Professor Hans-Peter Blossfeld (Bamberg). The first presentation by Dirk Hofäcker (Bamberg) entitled Globalisation, Transnationalisation and Mid-Career Mobility – Conceptual Framework and International comparison subsequently laid the conceptual framework for the following discussions at the workshop. It portrayed globalization as a dynamic and multidimensional process that in recent decades has increasingly affected national labor markets in virtually all modern European societies. Nonetheless, it argued that the influence of globalization has been filtered specifically by nation specific institutions, such as education systems, welfare states or modes of labor market regulation. Based on an exemplary analysis of most recent Eurobarometer indicators, it illustrated the differential effects of globalization on the mid-career transitions of men and women in Europe.
Following this general overview of overall labor market mobility patterns, Melinda Mills, Rudi Wielers and Dennis Raven (Groningen) focused on transnational migrant workers as a specific labor market group gaining importance as Globalization and Europeanization lessen the importance of national borders. They, however, showed that transnational work migration does not appear to be unanimously distributed among all social groups but that it disproportionately occurs especially among higher educated, young and single (or separated) employees.
While the first two presentations covered the “structural” or “objective” side of mid-career mobility in a globalizing Europe, the subsequent two presentations shifted the focus to the subjective perception of individual labor market mobility. Based on recent Eurobarometer studies, Dirk Hofäcker (Bamberg) confronted developments in observed labor market mobility in ten selected European countries with its nation-specific perception by European citizens. The partly surprising results of this juxtaposition was that the perception of individual job insecurity indeed appears to be lowest in countries with the most flexible and open labor markets, while, in contrast, citizens from countries with closed employment systems more frequently perceive labor market mobility as a threat to their own job security.
Klaus Schömann (Bremen) refined this general perspective on subjective perceptions with an analysis of the relationship between job mobility and job satisfaction. Differentiating between the spheres of ‘salary’, ‘career opportunities’ and ‘work life balance’, he highlighted that the influence of job mobility on individual job satisfaction appears to be domain-specific. Among the high-educated, for example, job mobility is often related with a higher satisfaction with both salary and career opportunities. But simultaneously, it may conflict with family obligations, as reflected in the observed lower satisfaction with work-life balance. Further results also pointed to significant gender differences, with job-mobile women generally being more dissatisfied with their personal work-family reconciliation then European men.
While the first four presentations allowed to arrive at a detailed and up-to-date synthesis on an international level, the remainder of the workshop was dedicated to a more in-depth analysis of the nation-specific repercussions of the globalization process on mid-career patterns in selected sample countries. Two Austrian case studies led the way in this respect. Bettina Stadler (Vienna) showed that increasing employment flexibility in Austria has mainly affected women, who over recent decades have been returning ever earlier to work after childbirth and then were more frequently found in flexible, atypical work forms such as part-time employment. In contrast, employment careers of Austrian men have remained rather stable, thereby promoting the continuing dominance of the male breadwinner model in Austria.
Johann Bacher, Joachim Nemella and Heinz Leitgöb (Linz) then used the Austrian Social Survey to investigate in more detail whether positive or negative effects of globalization prevail among mid-career employees in Austria. Their analyses point to an increasing in the heterogeneity in Austrian labor market outcomes throughout the last twenty years: Both the number of labor market winners and losers have increased throughout this period, thereby amplifying the degree of social inequality in the Austrian labor market.
The second day of the workshop (Saturday, September 6th) started with a presentation by Michael Tahlin (Stockholm), highlighting the impact of globalization on mid-career work-life mobility in Sweden throughout the last half-century (1950-2000). Looking at occupational mobility changes, he could show that over this observation period, virtually no significant changes in mid-career mobility could be observed on the Swedish labor market. Increasing mobility remained mostly restricted to those in their late-20s while mobility rates among workers beyond the age of 30 virtually remained stable. Based on the observation that furthermore, only little significant differences in changes of mobility rates could be observed economic sectors, Tahlin concluded that up to now, only little visible impact of globalization can be observed in Sweden.
Finally, Ellu Saar (Tallinn) and collaborators shifted the focus to ethnic-specific patterns of job mobility in transnationalizing Estonia. Their analyses pointed to significant intra-ethnic differences in mobility risk and opportunities in the Estonian labor market with Estonians being less exposed to downward mobility and being more likely to enjoy upward mobility than Non-Estonians. This striking finding clearly goes beyond mere compositional effects in terms of sectoral or regional concentration of the two ethnic groups. Even command of Estonian language and the acquisition of Estonian citizenship does not appear to equalize labor market opportunities between natives and non-Estonians, that may more likely be due to network segregation.
The workshop concluded with a final discussion of results, led by the conference chairs and organizers.
All workshop contributions were discussed vividly by the entire workshop audience. Presenters received helpful feedback by fellow scientists to improve their papers and develop them further.