Youth, Education and Work: Emerging Mobilities in Asia
Existing research on young people’s education and work mobilities in Asia have largely treated these two as separated forms of migration or as sequentially connected. Even as transnational youth mobilities in Asia continue to be driven by aspirations around education and work among others (leisure, philanthropy, marriage etc.), the types of mobility have become increasingly diverse, complex, and temporally variegated. Current migration and education policy often encourage youth mobility under the expectation that mobility will provide individual youth with cosmopolitan outlook and better life chances, and also benefit local and national economies via knowledge and skills circulation. Work experience is now considered a critical component to education under a renewed emphasis on workforce-readiness and industry-relevant capabilities. At the same time, the nature of work is shifting towards short-term, contractual, and project-based assignments. Within these shifting dynamics, a range of mobility programs such as overseas internships, international work placements, and work-study travels, mostly targeted at a broad spectrum of ‘middling’ and elite youth, are emerging within Asia. These mobility practices that typically involve short-term temporary work not exceeding the duration of a year – otherwise known as Overseas Work Stints (OWS) – often frame the consumption of overseas work experience as a supplement to education-based learning. As such, they exceed neat conceptual categories of education, training or work. Educated youths (and youths in education) are central to OWS for a variety of reasons including their purported lack of mobility constraints, the idea that youth is a period of flexibility and discovery, and that international work experience confers skills that are rewarded in the labour market. Yet, while OWS is dominantly framed through discourses of ‘education-work transition’ and ‘employability’, little is known about the broader forces and actors that mediate OWS as a mobility regime – with its winners and losers – and young people’s subjective experiences of working and living abroad.
In this talk, I outline a research plan to examine the Overseas Work Stints phenomenon within East and Southeast Asia, focusing on educated youths’ experiences of short-term overseas work mobilities in ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ host cities. This research underscores the way education and work increasingly inform each other in shaping transnational youth mobilities, and presents a novel opportunity to understand OWS as a mobility regime and its linkages to the shifting meanings of education, work, and youth. Additionally, I discuss the potential impact of this project as well as underline possible avenue for (future) collaboration.
Presentation venue: Nanyang Technological University, School of Social Sciences
Presentation time: 11.30am.