Research - 24.08.2017 - 00:00
24 August 2017. To find out the impact that job losses have on people’s political interests, researchers from the HSG and the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW Berlin) examined the information provided by just under 17,500 people who were interviewed for an SOEP long-term study in West and East Germany between 1984 and 2011. Among other things, the interviewees had to indicate on a scale of one to four how strongly they were interested in politics.
Youth unemployment fosters political disenchantment
The evaluation of the SOEP data reveals that the effect which a job loss has on people’s interest in politics is strongly dependent on the age of those who are affected: the older they are, the less their interest in politics is influenced by a job loss. If people lose their jobs at the very start of their careers, however, i.e. within the first four working years, their political interest nosedives. This political disenchantment is particularly pronounced if the people in question tend to be introverted and less integrated in social networks of friends and acquaintances.
The researchers surmise that the strong decrease in political interest could be a consequence of the fact that a job loss hits young professionals at a stage in life that has a formative influence on them. In particular, this applies to young people who start work directly after school. "People develop a strong political interest in the first few working years, in particular, through conversations with colleagues at work but also through the influence of trade unions," explains political scientist Patrick Emmenegger from the University of St.Gallen, one of the authors. "If these networks are missing, the socialisation process that normally triggers young people’s interest in politics will be impeded." Instead, those who lost their jobs would withdraw.
Influence on political decision-making decreases with participation in elections
A failed career start also has long-term consequences on people’s interest in politics. In their study, the researchers were able to demonstrate on the basis of the SOEP data that people who lost their jobs a short time after they had started work are still considerably less interested in politics than others – even if they found a job again afterwards.
A number of studies prove that people with scant interest in politics also participate in elections less frequently. "This may mean that precisely those who were unemployed at least once and therefore depended more on government support than others, have a weak voice in politics," says Emmenegger. The authors therefore plead for a labour market policy which also supports young people’s social integration when they are unemployed.
photo: Fotolia / Bits and Splits
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