Rethinking Youth Transitions: Policy Transfer and New Exclusions in New Labour's New Deal

Fergusson, Ross (2002). Rethinking Youth Transitions: Policy Transfer and New Exclusions in New Labour's New Deal. Policy Studies, 23(3) pp. 173–190.



The central argument of this paper is that the policies developed by New Labour to tackle social exclusion amongst young people in particular are aligned with US workfare policies. In being so aligned they disclose the neo-liberal 'drivers' of reform which mark New Labour's understanding of social exclusion as a distinct rupture with the European social exclusion tradition. Considerable benefits of workfare that accrue to labour supply and to wage regulation are outlined to exemplify these 'drivers'. Through reviews of the effects of welfare-to-work programmes, and of independent evaluations of the New Deal for Young People (NDYP), the paper suggests that its impact upon exclusion, even in its narrower senses, is limited. It goes on to query some fundamental assumptions about how young people are understood to make 'transitions' into financial independence as employees, looking both at persistent inequalities, notably of race, class and disability, and at new forms of inequality that depend, in much more complex ways, on how young people are able (or unable) to use their powers as students, part-time workers and members of social groups, to adapt to changing and highly locally variable market conditions. These trends, it is argued, may explain take-up and outcome patterns in NDYP. The paper concludes that there is a serious question as to whether it can ever 'lift' the most marginalized groups out of exclusion, and that such schemes may be positively inimical to doing so, particularly if they become 'joined up' with policies that criminalize young people who are regarded as being at risk. In this sense, the (characteristically US) economic case for welfare-to-work schemes does not accord with the (characteristically European) social case for inclusion through relief of poverty and honouring rights of citizenship.

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