Vocational Education and Employment over the Life Cycle

Andrea G. Forster, Thijs Bol, Herman G. van de Werfhorst

Sociological Science, June 24, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a21

Vocationally educated individuals often find employment sooner after school than those with a general educational qualification. A recent study has argued that the higher employment probability associated with a vocational qualification reverses in later life. The main explanation is that although having (occupation-)specific skills is an advantage when entering the labor market, specific skills also make the vocationally educated less flexible. This life cycle effect is hypothesized to be especially strong in countries where the vocational system provides highly occupation-specific skills. We test these two hypotheses on cross-national data from PIAAC 2012. Using logistic regressions with country fixed effects, we find that individuals with a vocational qualification have a higher employment probability than those with a general qualification at the start of their career, but this pattern reverses in later life. In contrast to earlier findings, we do not find that this effect varies systematically across countries with different vocational educational systems.

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Andrea G. Forster: Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Email: a.g.forster@uva.nl

Thijs Bol: Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Email: t.bol@uva.nl

Herman G. van de Werfhorst: Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Email: h.g.vandewerfhorst@uva.nl

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by several grants awarded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO): A Vici grant (number 453-14-017), a NWO/NRO-PROO grant Educational Systems and Functions of Education (number 411-10-920), and a NWO/NRO-ProBo grant The Future of Craftsmanship (number 405-15-400).

  • Citation: Forster, Andrea G., Thijs Bol, and Herman G. van de Werfhorst. 2016. “Vocational Education and Employment over the Life Cycle” Sociological Science 3: 473-494.
  • Received: December 3, 2015
  • Accepted: February 15, 2016
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a21

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