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Changing youth: transition to adulthood in Norway - page 12 / 17





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adult status. Those who opted for highly skilled jobs, had to take a route through extended education. Consequently, their transition into the adult world was prolonged. When full employment still persisted, these were the two dominating career trajectories. In 1980, 30 percent of boys 17-19 years old, and 26 percent of the girls, had gotten a job. Ten years later, it was only a minority (9 percent of the boys and 6 percent of the girls) who made an accelerated transition by moving straight from school to full-time work (The Youth Surveys, 1980 and 1990). In the early years of the post-war society, there were fairly stable occupational careers. Although occupational mobility has always been an important aspect of work careers, economic, social, and cultural changes introduce new kinds of uncertainties (Buchman, 1989: 48-52).

To say that unemployment is an important issue, is to state a truism. But there is more to it than that. Unemployment creates social situations and experiences that have wider consequences than individual discomfort. For young people unemployment is not just to be unemployed, it also involves the experience of a perpetual vacillation between unemployment, short-term training, and temporary jobs. Changes in the economy, in technology, and in the labour market appear to bring about more unstable occupational careers. Unemployment also affects professionals, and professional qualifications probably have more limited validity than ever. In a labour market where flexibility and restructuring are the key processes, one can not rely on life-long jobs. Therefore, education or training does not straight away lead towards predictable professional trajectories. Marriage and parenthood have been traditional options for women with no prospects for an occupational career (Roberts, 1985:436). Yet the assumption that high unemployment levels make ‘domestic careers’ more attractive for young women is not borne out of our data. On the contrary, full-time housework is no longer an occupational status, but a temporary activity most often associated with maternity leave. The trend is surely not towards ‘domestic careers’. Only a few girls are staying at home doing household work, and only a minority of them are planning housework as their future occupation. These proportions have dropped significantly from 1980 to 1990.

In spite of the seemingly fragmentation and indvidualisation, social classes appear to be an important element in the structuring of people’s opportunities. Our data also shows that occupational status is not just a result of free choice. To be sure, an increased percentage of young people from the lower classes are now in higher education. The proportion who are unemployed, however, has increased in the same period, and unemployment disproportionally

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