Training Regimes and Skill Formation in France and Germany: An Analysis of Change between 1970 and 2010

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Description: ** forthcoming in Social Forces ** How do educational systems prepare workers for the labor market? Stratification research has often made a distinction between two ideal-types: “qualificational spaces,” exemplified by Germany with a focus on vocational education, and “organizational spaces,” exemplified by France with a focus on general education. However, most studies that investigated this distinction did so by focusing only on the size of the vocational sector, not on whether graduates with a vocational degree actually link strongly to the labor market. Moreover, they often studied male workers only, ignoring potential gender differences in how school-to-work linkages are established. In this paper, we map the change in education-occupation linkage in France and Germany between 1970 and 2010 using an approach that can distinguish between changes in rates and changes in the structure of school-to-work linkages. Surprisingly, we find that the German vocational system in 1970 was not, on average, substantially more efficient in allocating graduates to specific occupations than the French system. This finding is a major departure from earlier results, and it shows that the differences between 1970's France and Germany, on which the qualificational-organizational distinction is based, are smaller than previously assumed. Partly, this is due to the fact that the female labor force was omitted from earlier analyses. We thus show that ignoring the female workforce has consequences for today's conception of skill formation systems, particularly because a large share of educational expansion is caused by an increase in female enrollment in (higher) education.

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