The Governance of Skills Supply and Demand in the Middle-Income Countries

Keywords - Political Economy/Comparative Education/International Development

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 Project Summary - Skills have gained a prominent role in the post-2015 agenda for international development thanks to the emphasis placed by international organizations (e.g. ILO, UNESCO) on youth employment and decent work for sustainable development. The project aims to generate a better understanding of the political economy of skills formation and utilisation at national and local level in the Global South, which can contribute to the design and implementation of more effective and equitable skills policies for young adults. Specifically, the project will investigate how authorities in two middle-income countries (Chile and Mexico) govern the relationship between the supply and demand of skills at national and local level and how these different policy arrangements impact on the quality and relevance (match/mismatch) of the skills demanded and used by young adults in the workplace.

Latin America is a paradigmatic case of the difficulties experienced by middle-income countries in generating qualified job opportunities for an increasingly highly-educated young workforce; this is why the project considers two of its largest economies, Chile and Mexico, for a comparative study. The main objectives of this comparative study are: to identify the key actors involved in the governance of the supply and demand of skills in the two countries; to understand to what extent and how these actors coordinate their activities; and to analyse the impact of these governance activities on the educational and employment opportunities available to young adults. Given that these processes are highly influenced by the economic and social specificities and the complex relations between public and private actors at the local and regional levels, the project is designed as a mixed-methods multi-level comparative study between two subnational regions of great economic significance for the two countries.

The analytical framework of the study intersects with several disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches in the social sciences, mainly: political economy, comparative education and development studies. The political economy of education and skills has emerged to overcome some of the deficits of orthodox approaches to skills policy, which rest upon human capital assumptions.  Political economists accept the importance of education and skills for economic development, but they question the human capital orthodoxy because it overestimates the extent to which nations within the global economy can create mass high-skilled employment, in particular for young adults. Comparative education adds fundamental value to policy studies in the age of globalisation due to its analytical capacity to integrate the global scale in multi-level analyses of policy formation and implementation. The approach recognizes that policy variations across regions and countries should not only be understood as the result of different political agendas and coalitions, but also as a result of the different social, economic and cultural contextual conditions in which skills formation and utilisation are embedded. Finally, development studies provide theoretical tools to critically examine the economic and societal goals of skills policies. This approach questions the productivist assumptions of education and labour market agendas, taking a more holistic view to also address the social justice and environmental challenges faced by countries in the Global South. 

Project Team - The candidate will be jointly supervised by Dr Oscar Valiente and Prof Andy Furlong, from the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change; and by Dr Scott Hurrell, from the Adam Smith Business School of the University of Glasgow. The candidate will be based in the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change, where he/she will benefit from the vibrant and international research climate of the Centre, which includes (among others) large ESRC and European research projects in the areas of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Lifelong learning and International development. Additionally, whilst carrying out research visits and fieldwork in Latin America, the candidate will receive supervisory support from our partners in the School of Education of Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile and the Business School of Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.

PhD candidate - Alice Aldinucci