ROA’s research is organised along four research programmes: Education and Occupational Career, Training and Employment, Dynamics of the Labour Market and Human Capital in the Region. The four research lines are supported by a fundamental research programme. The fundamental research is partly funded by the SBE’s research school GSBE and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
Education and occupational career
The focus of this programme is twofold. It studies the development of competences during education and the transition from school to work, as well as the subsequent occupational careers. Within this framework, a large-scale survey among school-leavers and graduates who entered the labour market is carried out annually. These surveys cover the entire spectrum of education and are considered the most influential data source on school-to-work transitions in the Netherlands. The data obtained are used by Ministries and other relevant organisations (such as the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands). The data also play an important role in the quality assurance and accreditation of individual educational institutes. Besides the main focus on transition research, this ROA programme also takes a wider life-course perspective. It analyses educational careers, competence development in education and its relation with programme characteristics as well as long term outcomes of education on occupational careers, and their effects on other domains of the life-course.
Coordinator Education and Occupational Career research programme: Prof. Dr. Rolf van der Velden
Training and employment
The relationship between developments in the labour market on the one hand, and the acquisition of qualifications and skill obsolescence in workers, job-seekers and non-participants on the other, is the research focus of the Training and Employment programme. This development of human resources is analysed from the perspective of both employees and employers. From the employees’ point of view, the relationships between human capital development and wages, job satisfaction and mobility are studied. From the employers’ perspective, productivity, returns to training investments and the substitutability of educational groups are analysed. Also the Human Resource practices that organisations use to improve the productivity of their workforce are considered in the research. Specific areas of interest include industry studies, apprenticeships, job-worker mismatches, technology and training, training and retirement, informal learning, skill obsolescence, employability, labour market segmentation and Human Resource Management. Research has been conducted in several economic sectors, such as the metal and electronics industries, pharmacies, call centres and the public sector.
Coordinator Training and Employment research programme: Prof. Dr. Andries de Grip
Dynamics of the Labour Market
ROA’s third research programme focuses on the way the labour market functions by distinguishing between labour demand and supply, and more in particular by analysing the effects of education and training on labour market outcomes. With respect to labour demand we study the allocation of skills in the labour market, skill biased technological and organisational change, and related changes in the distribution of productivities and wages of individuals. The research on labour supply analyses the impact of employment perspectives on individual behaviour, such as educational and occupational choice, labour force participation (discouraged worker effect), occupational mobility, retirement of older workers, and international mobility of graduates and workers. An effort is made to increase the transparency of the labour market for individuals, employers, employment agencies and policy makers, by providing information on current and future developments in the labour market. This information is often arranged according to education and occupation. In this context, the effects of changes in behaviour and policies are also analysed.
Coordinator Dynamics of the Labour Market research programme: Prof. Dr. Didier Fouarge
Human capital in the region
Human capital investments made at the regional level are important to match labour supply and demand, and to increase labour participation and productivity of the work force. Due to demographic transitions, particularly in the form of population ageing, the decreasing number of young people may fall short to replace the number of older workers who retire. The problems faced differ by level of education. Higher educated workers are important for a regional labour market as drivers of economic growth. Their high geographic mobility creates opportunities as well as threats for shrinking regions. Workers with low and intermediate education levels are often largely dependent on their own region, which makes them vulnerable for shifts in the structure of employment. Young people should earn vocational qualifications that correspond with the regional labour demand, so that a minimum of human capital is wasted.
Research questions concern the optimal guidance and development of the available human capital in the region, differentiated by education, sex, age and origin, for the jobs that are made available as a result of the demographic transition. Employers, schools, local governments and private and public employment services should cooperate at the regional level to improve the transition between the labour market and the education system in the region. Good schools and teachers are required to educate young people and optimally prepare them for the needs on the labour market.
Coordinator Human Capital in the Region research programme: Prof. Dr. Frank Cörvers
Health, skills, and inequality
How can we best prepare today’s youth for participation in tomorrow’s society and on tomorrow’s labor market? What qualities and capabilities are essential for successful participation? How are such qualities and capabilities best acquired, and who acquires them best? What institutions and laws shape inequalities in the acquisition of these qualities and capabilities? And how can we understand such inequalities in a world changing rapidly by technological developments, institutional change, and other social forces?
The ROA program Health, Skills, and Inequalities aims to answer these important questions. We build and test a macro-micro-macro theoretical framework that assumes inequalities emerge because of decisions individuals and their kin make during their life-course, but that are in turn shaped by individuals’ personal characteristics, circumstances and backgrounds, as well as their social, cultural, institutional, and legal context.
We focus on explaining inequalities in four empowering factors that have consistently been proven elementary for successful societal participation and productivity: (a) cognitive and (b) non-cognitive skills, and (c) preferable lifestyles and (d) good health. The Sardes chair on Health, Education and Work that is embedded in this program explains why inequalities in skill levels, lifestyles, and health can be observed already at a very young age. We study why these early disparities arise, to what extent and why they are interrelated, how they can be prevented, and how they play out over the life-course.
The program pays special attention to vulnerable social groups. For example, we studied the link between low literacy and poverty and developed a fundamental research line explaining skills acquisition of migrant children. We also coordinate a cross-national research effort to explain why some young people withdraw from education and the labor market for a long period of time during their school-to-work transition (NEET).
We map current disparities in skills and health, for example with the PIAAC survey, which we help design. But if we are to understand how disparities we observe today will play out in the future, we also have to understand what that future will look like. In several projects, we aim to understand how current technological revolutions will affect work, education, social structures, social welfare, and public finances. For example, we developed and coordinate the H2020 project TECHNEQUALITY, and work with large companies and labor unions in Germany to assess the consequences of the AI revolution.
We lead or engage in fundamental empirical research to enlarge our theoretical understanding of current and future inequalities, but also regularly work with policy-makers and stakeholders to co-create policies that work. In addition, we aim to develop the data bases that enable us and other researchers to conduct empirical research that pushes the state-of-the-art.
Coordinator Skills, Health and Inequality research programme: Dr. Mark Levels
Fundamental research projects are set up by ROA, often in the form of PhD and postdoc studies, supporting the subsidised and contract research carried out within the five research programmes. For most PhD studies, funding is obtained from GSBE and also from NWO. PhDs benefit from ROA’s Research Fellows. The latter also contribute to the ROA Research Memorandum Series and our weekly research seminars.
Since ROA’s research is part of the research programmes of Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE), ROA publications are included in SBE’s reports and assessed as part of the official research audits. The links with SBE enable ROA to benefit from the facilities of the research school GSBE. On the basis of their scientific publications, several ROA staff members have been appointed as GSBE fellows.
Coordinator fundamental research programme: Prof. Dr. Andries de Grip
For more information on ROA and research possibilities, please contact the coordinator concerned.