Entering the labour force in the conditions of economic boom and recession

Ave Roots

Entering the labour force is a process affected by factors associated with the individual as well as the opportunities available on the labour market. The present article studies those entering the labour force in the conditions of economic boom and recession. The article proceeds from an understanding of the life course in which entering the labour force is not a solitary event, but a collection of events which signals not only taking up full- or part-time employment but also the end of one’s educational career, being unemployed or domestic and then moving out of those conditions. The article demonstrates that the economic cycle has the most predominant effect on entering the labour force. It determines the opportunities available on the labour market and the ease of finding full-time employment. In the period of economic growth the transition from school to work was quite smooth and began long before the actual end of a school year. The recession saw a significant increase in the number of people who opted to stay at home, the unemployed and part-time workers. The analysis showed that the economic cycle also influenced incomes for approximately a year after entry into the labour force. Those who enter the labour force right after school are in a relatively good position a year after entering the labour force during an economic boom, but during a recession their incomes are lower than those of all other groups who have been on the labour market for a longer period. The study also showed that the compounded impact of the economic cycle and gender influences the correlations between education and income. During a recession the greatest losers among men are men with higher education and the greatest winners among women with higher education.