Denmark: Working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Job quality,
  • Published on: 18 desember 2013



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In Denmark the concerns regarding working conditions for young entrants is mainly focused on the fact that this group is highly overrepresented in occupational accidents due to lack of experience, training and guidance. It is difficult to address other clear trends in the working environment of young entrants, which might reflect the fact that the greatest challenge for young people is youth unemployment and difficulties in entering the labour market rather than challenges in working conditions for those already employed.

Introduction

This EWCO CAR is specifically focused on the group of “young entrants to the labour market”. This group includes all young people (between 15 and 30 years old) who have recently entered into the labour market (i.e., people with a work experience shorter than 1-2 years in the labour market), with relative independence of their age and for whom work is their main and core activity. This definition excludes young people for whom studies are their main activity but who combine their studies with some remunerated activity as part of their training programmes (e.g. apprenticeships in dual systems), as well as unemployed young people, even if they are actively looking for a job (see Background note for more detailed information on the concept of young entrants to be considered in the research).

The CAR coordinating team is conscious that such as “narrow” definition of “young entrants to the labour market” can make difficult the identification and collection of relevant information on the topic. Therefore, and in the case no national information is available using this “narrow” definition, National Correspondents can use a “proxy” definition of “young entrant to the labour market” as any young person (i.e. between 15 and 30 years old) who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience that he/she has in the labour market (again, unemployed young people are excluded from the analysis).

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups (around 700 words)

  • Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country (around 600 words)

  • Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis (around 500 words)

  • Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market (around 500 words)

  • Final commentary on the main results (around 100 words)

Block 1: General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national research/studies) on a number of working conditions-related variables specifically related to young entrants to the labour market in comparison to other age groups. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified in relation to other age groups, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 700 words

1.1 Career and employment security issues

One of the biggest issues regarding working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in Denmark is linked to the relatively high unemployment rate among graduates, especially higher educated graduates, and to the process of applying for and being employed in the first job. In recent years many graduates have been employed through public wage subsidy schemes which help employers cover the cost of the wages in the first few months of employment corresponding to the training period. During the recent crisis the trade unions point out the trend that employers are using the scheme as cheap labour that doesn’t extend to regular employment especially among young entrants. Many wage subsidy employments are however being extended to regular employments and the trade unions are in a dilemma, since wage subsidy is the better alternative to unemployment, but the trade unions do not want conditions where graduates can not be employed without being subsidized. (See the articles Increase in young entrants with wage subsidy, 2011, Berlingske Business and Trade Unions: Misuse of the Wage Subsidy Scheme, 2012, Information for a discussion among trade unions, in Danish).

In recent years several trade unions have reported a tendency towards young graduates being cautious to negotiate the salary in their first job due to the fear of not getting the job. Instead young entrants tend to accept the first salary proposal from the employer. At the same time young entrants also experience the proposal from the employer as a dictation rather than a proposal being subject to negotiation. (for more information read Graduates do not negotiate their salary, 2010, Djoef Magazine and Graduates are afraid they will not be employed, 2011, Berlingske Business)

It has not been possible to provide further information on the remaining conditions-related variables specifically related to young entrants to the labour market within the narrow definition presented. However the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE) has initiated a survey on Working Environment and Health (Arbejdsmiljø og helbred 2012-20) running every second year from 2012 to 2020. 16, 300 employees have responded the questionnaire in 2012 and the results are divided by gender and age groups. For the purpose of this report, results on the topics of concern are presented for the age categories 18-24 years and 25-34 years and are compared with the average score. Only those age groups differing significantly from the average score will be presented. It is important to be aware, that these age categories cover all employees including those whose main activity might be studying, and not only young entrants as defined earlier. This gives some methodological implications in drawing conclusions in line with the objective of this report.

Respondents were asked to what degree they fear to become unemployed on a scale ranging from 1 to 5, where 1 corresponds to ‘to a very poor degree’ and 5 corresponds to ‘to a very high degree’. The average score was 2.27 and men aged 18-24 years scored 2.10 whereas women aged 25-34 scored an average of 2.47. This indicates that young men experience a high degree of job security and young women experience a low degree of job security compared to the reference labour force.

Respondents were also asked how often they have influence on when and how to solve tasks on a scale ranging from 1-5, where 1 corresponds to ‘always’ and 5 corresponds to ‘never’. The results shows that both men and woman aged 18-24 years and women aged 25-34 years have significantly less influence on how to solve their job tasks compared to the reference labour force. Similar both men and women aged 18-24 years have significantly less influence on when to solve their job tasks compared to the reference labour force.

The trade union HK/private (HK/Privat) has conducted a survey on job satisfaction among 1, 302 of its members. The survey showed that the respondents generally had a high level of job satisfaction, as 63% o the respondents claimed to be satisfied or very satisfied with their current job. However, young employees tend to be less satisfied with their job than older employees. 58% of the respondents aged 15-34 years were satisfied or very satisfied with their job, whereas the share was 67% among the 35-54 year olds, and 68% among those aged 55 years or older (For more information see Young employees are least satisfied with their job, 2011, HK/Privat).

1.2 Skills development

To our knowledge it is not possible to provide information on this particular issue. Challenges for young people in order to be enrolled in an apprenticeship as a part of vocational training is dealt with in section 3.1.

1.3 Health and well being

In the aforementioned survey Working Environment and Health 2012-2020 respondents were asked whether they get the necessary guidance and instruction in the safe performance of work, where a high score refers to a high disagreement. Men and woman in the age categories 18-24 years and 25-34 years scored higher than the average, however only women aged 18-24 scored differed statistically significant from the average. Results from the same survey also showed, that 5.67 % of all respondents had been exposed to at least one occupational accident, which was 10.85% for men aged 18-24 years, 8.3% for men aged 25-34 years and 8.35 for women aged 18-24 years, showing that young employees experience higher rates of occupational accidents than older employees.

In 2009 the Danish Working Environment Authority investigated 334 occupational accidents, where the injured person had been employed in the current position for less than one year. The analysis showed that the most common causes of occupational accidents for new entrants were lack of experience, training and knowledge and lack of instructions and supervision of the new entrants’ performance of the work. Another important reason for the high share of occupational accidents among young employees and entrants is the fact that this group shows unnecessary high risk-taking behaviour. (For more information see Analysis of 334 accidents with new employees (In Danish, 51.8Kb PDF), 2009, the Danish Working Environment Authority).

1.4 Reconciliation of working and non-working life

In the aforementioned survey Working Environment and Health 2012-2020 respondents were asked ‘how often do you feel that your work takes so much of your energy that it affects your non-working life?’ with a response category ranging from ‘never’ (1 point) to ‘always’ (5 points). The average for all respondents was 2.77 points, whereas men aged 18-24 years scored 2.54 on average, men aged 25-34 scored 2.75, women aged 18-24 scored 2.61 and women 25-34 scored 2.81. This indicates that except for women aged 25-34 years, young employees tend to balance their working and non-working life better than older employees. Regarding the question ‘How often do you feel that your work takes so much of your time that it affects your non-working life?’ men and women aged 18-24 years score significantly lower than the average, whereas men aged 25-43 scores above the average and women 25-43 correspond the average score.

Block 2: Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market, for a series of variables. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 600 words

2.1 Personal characteristics of young entrants

As reported in the different sections in block 1, there is a strong significant trend towards the youngest employees experiencing the highest rate of occupational accidents and not getting the necessary guidance and instruction in safe performance of work. This is supported in the aforementioned survey on occupational accidents among entrants, showing that the risk of an injury is even higher, if entrants are also younger than 24 years. Furthermore the youngest employees are less likely to have influence on when and how to solve job tasks. This indicates that the lower the age of employees, the worse are the working conditions. However, regarding the work life balance the youngest age category does not experience that their job takes so much time and energy that it affects their private life, which might be due to the fact, that this group has not yet established a family. Furthermore the trend seem to be that the younger the employee the lower the degree of fear about unemployment.

There is no clear trend towards gender differences in working conditions, and it is very likely that differences in experienced working environment is due to the fact that many branches are dominated by either men or women.

Regarding the results presented in block 1, woman experiences a higher degree of job insecurity than men. Regarding work life balance men aged 25-34 years more often experience that their job takes so much time and effort it affects the private life compared to women. This trend is not statistically significant, and differences might be due to the fact, that men in this age group have more working hours than women in the same age.

Woman aged 25-34 years report much lower influence on how to solve job tasks than men in that age category. The share of occupational accidents is greater among young men than young women, which is probably due to gender differences in the sector of occupation.

Differences by educational levels: do the less qualified young entrants suffer worse working conditions than the rest?

To our knowledge there are no national surveys providing information on whether less qualified young entrants suffer worse working conditions than others.

To our knowledge other personal characteristics have not been investigated in the issue of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market.

2.2 Occupational characteristics

Young employees are overrepresented in statistics of occupational accidents in sectors such as construction and building and the transport sector indicating that young people in less skilled occupations have poorer working conditions in terms of health and safety compared to young people in skilled occupations (For statistics see Reported occupational accidents 2006-2011, In Danish, 293Kb PDF, 2012, the Danish Working Environment Authority).

Block 3: Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis

NCs are kindly requested to provide information on the following items: NCs are kindly requested to provide information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions amongst the group of young entrants to the labour market in comparison to the situation five years ago. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 500 words

3.1 Please provide information on the evolution of working conditions of young labour entrants in the last five years. Have working conditions of this group improved/deteriorated in comparison to the existing situation five years ago (before the economic crisis began)? What are the reasons for these changes

Several surveys have addressed the recent economic crisis´ impact on the evolution of working conditions in Denmark (DK1212029Q), but these findings are not concerned with young entrants to the labour market, in line with the definition presented in this report. The challenges of the labour market situation for young workers during the crisis are in particular connected to decreasing possibilities to get an apprenticeship as a part of vocational training. The most central problem for this group of young skilled workers is lack of education and training rather than unemployment in itself (DK1101019Q). The Danish youth unemployment was significantly low when the crisis hit Denmark in autumn 2008. Hereafter it increased and peaked in first quarter in 2010. In a European context, however, the percentage is still not high. The Danish youth unemployment is thus still below the level that many other countries experienced before the crisis (DK1101019Q).

3.2 Based on possible existing prospective studies, please provide information on the expected evolution of employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants in your country in the near future (coming 2-3 years)

In January 2013 the youth unemployment reached a new high with 40, 000 young unemployed people under the age of 30 in Denmark. From January 2012 to January 2013 1, 500 more young people became unemployed, but in the same period the unemployment rate among the 30-49 year old was stable. This indicates no improvement in the youth unemployment rates in the nearest future, and the social partners are worried because they believe that young people are more likely to become long-term unemployed than older people (For more information see New high in 2013: 40, 000 unemployed young workers, 2013, HK/Private).

Block 4: Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

4.1 Identify main recent national measures/initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by public authorities in order to improve employment opportunities and working conditions for young entrants to the labour market.

In 2011 the Government and several parties agreed on A strategy for the working environment efforts up to 2020. The strategy contains 19 initiatives of which one is targeting young and new employees due to the fact that this group is overrepresented in statistics of occupational accidents. As a part of the efforts aimed at new employees in relation to accidents at work and occupational diseases the Danish Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet) will increase its focus on the obligation of employers to ensure the training and instruction of new employees regardless of age. The Danish Working Environment Authority will also focus on whether employers supervise that new employees carry out their work safely. The Danish Working Environment Authority will continue to issue notices to enterprises that do not comply with regulations.

As a part of the strategy the Danish Working Environment Authority will implement communication initiatives on health and safety at work aimed at young people carried out via the favourite media of the target group. The efforts aimed at new employees will be coordinated with the Working Environment Council (Arbejdsmiljørådet). To our knowledge the results of the efforts have not yet been evaluated.

The efforts in the strategy are targeting new employees regardless of age and years of experience and young employees regardless of the type of employment. This means that employees enrolled in vocational education and training programs are included in the target group. The efforts targeting young employees are mainly focusing on the working environment within sectors reasonable for a large share of occupational accidents and diseases such as building and construction.

In 2011 the National Research Centre for the Working Environment initiated a new research study on Safe Work for Young Employees (Sikkert Arbejde for Unge) with the aim of obtaining knowledge on why young employees are more likely to be involved in occupational accidents than older employees. The results will form the basis for targeted prevention efforts and is running until 2014. The target group is young employees aged 18-24 years in sectors of retail, industry and social and health care, as these sectors are considered having different workplace cultures.

4.2 Identify main recent initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by social partners (either at national, sector or company level) in order to improve working conditions amongst young entrants to the labour market.

To our knowledge no such initiative has been launched by the social partners.

Commentary by the NC

Though the issue of working conditions for young entrants to the labour market is very relevant, it has not been subject to much research in Denmark. As described in this report the main challenge in the working environment for young entrants is to entry the labour market and to get permanent employment. Other challenges on working conditions presented in this report are based on surveys investigating all young workers, and not only young entrants, which make it difficult to address potential differences in working conditions for young entrants compared to the reference labour force.

Helle Ourø Nielsen and Simone Visbjerg Møller

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