Jocellyn's Blog

Are students outsiders?

According to David Rueda, labor is divided into insiders and outsiders. Insiders have protected and secure job with social benefits, and outsiders are unemployed or hold jobs with low salaries and low protection. Students are also considered as outsiders since they do not have a job and also do not have a certainty that they will get one after finishing school. Palier and Thelen also speak about dualization of labor (in France and Germany), but they see it as a result of sequence of developments within industrial relations, labor market and welfare state reforms. This dualization into insiders and outsiders is linked with social insurance and social protection division as well with high security at the core of labor and instability at the margin..

I argue Rueda’s view is too black-and-white. He allowed the chance for insiders to change their preferences when they feel insecure about their jobs (in that case they would support labor market policies as the outsiders) but he does not consider outsiders could change it as well. According to his theory outsiders are in favor of labor market policies (ALMPs and PLMPs) and oppose employment protection, because of their belief that lower job security will facilitate their own entrance into labor market. I argue that outsiders care about employment protection as well because they can imagine themselves in a role of insiders. They can think ahead and (because of their experience with unemployment) they do not want to get an insecure job.

Young people are a different case, much stronger in their neediness of employment protection. They often do not have much experience, but they do know that their chances to getting job are not that high. According to International labor organization young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. What are their policy preferences? I agree with Rueda they are interested in labor market policies because active labor market policy can increase their chances to getting jobs and passive labor market policy can help them financially from leaving school until they find a job. But I do not agree they oppose employment protection. Young people in the age of leaving their family of origin and starting their own family need stability more than anyone else (they are perhaps looking for a flat or having their first child, which brings increased expenses).

If we also consider students as outsiders (according to Rueda), should all students be in the same group? His assumption is that students are outsiders because of their insecurity of having a job, but not all of them have same chances. Some university degrees are specially preparing students for their future career, like law or medicine, and students with different degrees may not be so sure about their future job.

I argue that field of study, education level, and also class affiliation may play a big part in defining them as outsiders or insiders. Children from rich families may be unemployed but their chances for getting job might be bigger just because of family’s connections.

This is also very dependent on a country and on a national context. Rueda is working with 16 countries, for example Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden or Norway. It could be really different labor market competition if you are one of five people having degree or if you are just one of two people. Percentage of people finishing a University in Italy is about 20 percent and in Sweden it is almost 50 percent.

The national context is also important in the outsiders case. Rueda mixes together countries with Nordic, Continental and Anglo-sax type of welfare states. According to Thelen and Palier, modern developments starting in industrial relations lead to the dualization in welfare reform. There is sharper edge between social insurance for workers and social protection for others (outsiders). But this is very much specific for continental type of welfare state, on the other hand, in nordic type of welfare state is much more typical to cover all citizens under one protection where everyone is basically client of the same system. Outsiders in that countries should not be so different from insiders.

In sum we can say that Rueda’s definition of outsider’s and student’s preferences are not so definite, as well as assignment students to outsiders’ group. Outsiders do not necessarily only think of getting a job and forget about what is in their interest afterwards. Their preferences may be close to insiders’. Young people are also in need of stability in their life, because they are in the age of leaving their family of origin thus they may be supporting employment protection as insiders. From young people the students are the one with more complicated assigning to one group on another. Other factors play role besides employment status, like field of study, education degree or national context. Also type of welfare state may be important if we consider Palier’s and Thelen’s dualization in social sphere. Insiders and outsiders may be closer to each other in Scandinavian model than in another one.


PALIER, B. a K. THELEN. Institutionalizing Dualism: Complementarities and Change in France and Germany. Politics. 2010-02-10,38:1, 119-148. ISSN 0032-3292. DOI: 10.1177/0032329209357888.

RUEDA, David. Insider-Outsider politics in industrialized democracies. American political science review. 2005, 99:1, 61 - 74.

Eurostat [online]. 2012. < HYPERLINK “”>


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