TOPIC OF THE ISSUE

LABOUR MARKET, EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT: CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES

Issue Editor: Rumiana Jeleva

Introduction

Part I: Developments and Challenges

From Early Retirement to Active Ageing: Social Inequalities in the Transition from Work to Retirement

Dirk Hofäcker, Stefanie König, Moritz Hess

The Role of Employers on the Labour Market in Bulgaria

Rumiana Stoilova, Veneta Krasteva, Gabriela Yordanova

Current Policies in Education and Vocational Training: Their Impact on the Labour Market

Emilia Chengelova

Higher Education as a Heterogeneous Good:Vertical Education-Job Mismatch among Graduates

Petya Ilieva-Trichkova, Pepka Boyadjieva

Employment and Poverty in Bulgarian Rural Areas

Kamelia Petkova, Mariana Draganova, Rumiana Jeleva

Part II: Innovations and Perspectives

Strategies to Improve Labour Market Integration of Young People: Policy Coordination in Youth Guarantee Introduction and Implementation

Lyuba Spasova

Dual Education and the Labour Market

Rumiana Jeleva

Fostering Sustainable Innovations and Entrepreneurship through Strategic Niche Management:The Bulgarian Case in Higher Education

Martin J. Ivanov

Organic Entrepreneurship as an Opportunity for Labour Market Development in Bulgarian Rural Areas

Dona Pickard

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Introduction

This issue of Sociological Problems is a collection of articles devoted to the labour market as connected with education and employment. The articles were presented as papers at the international conference LABOUR MARKET, EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT: CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES, held in Sofia in November 2016. The conference itself, as well as this publication of many of its papers, were made possible through the financial support of the Office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Sofia. For the fifth consecutive year, the Foundation has supported the efforts of the researchers from the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge (ISSK) to present to a broader academic and non-academic public the results of their on-going, or completed, projects and studies. Also playing an active role in the debates and exchanges of views at the conference were representatives of the German academic community as well as leading practitioners, experts, politicians and members of other university communities and research centres. The conference last year continued the already established practice of active dialogue involved in the presentation of more than 15 scholarly papers containing concrete data and empirical results of studies and research projects; moreover, numerous participants and guests joined in the discussions. In comparison with the insufficient generally shown by the Bulgarian mass media in such scholarly forums, the conference received relatively wide media coverage.    
The articles contained in the present issue of Sociological Problems focus on the connection between the labour market on the one hand and education and employment on the other.
In the first part of the collection, the authors have emphasized contemporary developments, problems, and challenges, related to the labour market, its interaction with and impact on education, the social stratification of poverty, employment and unemployment, population ageing, charity and solidarity in society, etc.
In this part, our German colleagues Dirk Hofäcker, Stefanie König and Moritz Hess present interesting comparative data on ageing and the transition from employment to retirement. In their article entitled ‘Early Retirement to Active Ageing: Social Inequalities in the Transition from Work to Retirement’, the authors analyse current developments in labour force exit, retirement, and transition from work to retirement, in relation to labour market perspectives. Tracing recent labour market data, they underline certain aspects of delayed exit of older workers from the labour force and the increase of their employment rate. The article underscores that, although similar developments are found across Europe, their specific extent va-ries largely by countries and the offers provided in different national contexts; the authors make available an interesting comparative perspective on the problems. In their article ‘The Role of Employers on the Labour Market in Bulgaria’, the authors Rumiana Stoilova, Veneta Krasteva, and Gabriela Yordanova offer a comparison between, on the one hand, young persons’ assessments of the difficulties encountered when seeking employment and, on the other, employers’ assessments of the difficulties involved in finding suitable candidates for jobs. The authors use a mixed methods approach, including interpretation of quantitative data obtained from online questionnaires for employers, and, in the qualitative perspective, the analysis of interviews with young people, conducted in 2016 in the framework of the international project NEGOTIATE. In her article ‘Current Policies in Education and Vocational Training: Their Impact on the Labour Market’, Emilia Chengelova reviews the strategic government documents establishing the regulatory and instrumental framework for the development of the labour market in Bulgaria. The selected documents are relevant to current social policies and measures aimed at effectively influencing the labour market in the short, medium and longer term. Special attention is paid to the Updated National Employment Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria (2013 – 2020) and the potential it holds for bringing about positive changes in labour market policy and labour mobility. In ‘Higher Education as a Heterogeneous Good: Vertical Education-Job Mismatch among Graduates’, Petya Ilieva-Trichkova and Pepka Boyadjieva take the Bulgarian case to explore the social embeddedness of the labour market misbalances for highly educated people. They argue that the labour market misbalances for highly educated people mirror structural problems in the economy and the educational system. Although these misbalances represent a way of fighting unemployment, it is one that comes at a cost. The authors’ theoretical approach to graduate employability highlights its two aspects – individual and socio-structural. Their analysis, based on data from the Bulgarian Universities Ranking System and the National Social Security Institute, employs descriptive statistics and multilevel modelling. In the article ‘Employment and Poverty in Bulgarian Rural Areas’, the authors Kamelia Petkova, Mariana Draganova and Rumiana Jeleva discuss the problem of employment and poverty in rural Bulgaria. The emphases of the discussion are placed on the slow pace of creation of new employment in rural areas and the shortage of stable and long-lasting jobs in villages and small towns, which leads to lower employment rates and hence, greater risk of poverty. Moreover, the authors point out significantly decreasing employment rates in those settlements among young people aged up to 24 years and elderly people aged 60 and over. The authors discuss how this negative trend, designated as ‘stable’ by the official statistics, may be overcome.
The articles in the second part of the collection variously focus on the future of the labour market, the opportunities for innovations, and the perspectives for the growth of education, employment, new technologies, and new methods of production and training, the modern strategies for youth labour market integration, eco-entrepreneurs and/or non-traditional study programmes and courses offered in dual training. In Lyuba Spasova’s article ‘Strategies to Improve Labour Market Integration of Young People: Policy Coordination in Youth Guarantee Introduction and Implementation’, the author provides empirical analysis of the changes related to vertical and horizontal coordination in the context of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee initiative in Bulgaria. In the next article, ‘Dual Education and the Labour Market’, the author Rumiana Jeleva presents the international project EDU-LAB – New Danubian Governance in Labour Market Relevance of Higher Education, taking the interim results of the project to illustrate the impact of the dual form in higher education upon the labour market in terms of the more effective satisfaction of the demand for labour force possessing specific qualification and skills. The author specifically presents the experience of the German province Baden Württemberg in implementing and using dual education for the better labour market realization of young people. In his article ‘Fostering Sustainable Innovations and Entrepreneurship through Strategic Niche Management: The Bulgarian Case in Higher Education’, Martin J. Ivanov has used the Strategic Niche Management (SNM) approach to analyse the efforts of the scientific community to elaborate a practical mechanism for achieving sustainable entrepreneurship. This article, like the previous ones, presents an empirical survey – related in this case to ‘changes’ made in the entrepreneurship training conducted in three Bulgarian universities (Ruse, Svi-shtov and Plovdiv). A very positive aspect of Ivanov’s research, and of the article that describes it in this collection, is the presentation of an innovative approach to higher education, which enables change management so as to obtain a more efficient connection between education and the labour market. In her article ‘Organic Entrepreneurship as an Opportunity For Labour Market Development in Bulgarian Rural Areas’, Dona Pickard describes the strong points and opportunities offered by the organic food production sector for achieving sustainable and good quality employment in rural regions, as well as the obstacles to this.    
As mentioned above, the articles selected in this collection do not include all the papers presented at the conference and cannot by themselves give a full idea of the extremely interesting and in-depth discussions that took place in the several sessions. One of the most stimulating conference papers was that of our teacher and friend Professor Krastyo Petkov, a former director of the Institute of Sociology. His presentation, entitled ‘The Crisis and the Structural Imbalances in the Labour Markets in Bulgaria and the EU’, provoked many questions and comments and impelled the audience to lively debate and in-depth discussion. Sadly, the conference in November 2016 was the last academic meeting in which Prof. Petkov was able to take part. It is with gratitude and homage that we dedicate this special issue of Sociological Problems to his memory.  

Acknowledgements

We owe our warmest gratitude to Dr. Thorsten Geissler, Director of the office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Sofia, and to the whole team of the Foundation, for their unreserved assistance and support, during yet another year, to the benefit of the social sciences – specifically to the research activities at ISSK. We address special thanks to Prof. DSc Rumiana Stoilova, Director of ISSK, for her professional aid and personal commitment to this initiative year after year. I express my gratitude to the colleagues who were willing to assume the far from easy task of reviewing the articles before publication. Sincere thanks to Vladimir Vladov from ISSK for copyediting the English-language version of the articles and for his unreserved support for the various activities involved in preparing the series of collected articles over the years. I am likewise grateful to Lyubka Ilieva from ISSK for her contribution to the on-going collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. My thanks go to the members of the organization committee of the conference, the editors of the journal Sociological Problems, and particularly to the journal’s editor in chief Prof. Kolyo Koev. Special thanks to Plamen Ivanov for his work on the layout design and the preparation of this issue.
Last but not least, I thank all those who took part in the conference LABOUR MARKET, EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT: CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES, and, of course, the authors of these articles, without whose efforts, commitment and professional expertise this publication would not have been possible.
I extend to all readers my hope they will find these articles to be rewarding reading.  

Rumiana Jeleva
Sofia, November 2017

 

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