New publications discuss rural lifepaths and gendered career choices in Sweden


Our Swedish researchers, Maria Rönnlund and Aina Tollefsen (Umeå University) discuss the life paths and career choices of Swedish rural young adults in two new publications. 

The article School-to-work transitions in rural North Sweden: staying on in a reviving local labor market (Journal of Youth Studies 2023) focuses on the school-to-work transitions by Swedish rural youth who choose to stay in regions, where the labor market is going through a process of rapid reindustrialization after decades of industrial decline and welfare state retrenchment. Rönnlund and Tollefsen explored the young rural 'stayers' transitions in a region characterized by strong economic growth, yet with long-standing challenges in terms of social reproduction. What kind of work they ended up with, and how did they establish their positions on the labor market? The study shows  that staying on locally depended largely on regional mobility. Further, how fast the young adults managed to establish themselves on the local labor market varied. Rönnlund and Tollefsen discuss the school-to-work-transitions in relation to the ongoing re-industrialization process in North Sweden. In addition, they discuss what implications young stayers' school-to-work transitions might have in relation to the wider social reproduction in their regions.

In Girls' school-to-work transitions into male dominated workplaces (Journal of Vocational Education & Training 2023) Rönnlund & Tollefsen focus on young women in a strongly male dominated professional sphere – the transport industry. Drawing on interviews with two girls over the time span 2015–2022 and visits to their upper secondary school 2016–2019, the article discusses power structures related to gender in school and workplaces: How the girls were positioned socially and in relation to professional qualification, and how they positioned themselves in these respects. The findings indicate significant changes in discourse and practice when the girls transitioned from students to employees, changes which in the article are discussed in the framework of 'inequality regimes' and through the lens of the 'glass funnel' metaphor. With the increasing individualisation and insecurity, young people like the two girls in focus in this article, are increasingly left to fend for themselves in a harsh labour market.

The articles draw on data from a Swedish ongoing qualitative longitudinal project spanning over 10 years. The study focuses on three rural regions in North Sweden, each of them specific in terms of size of the population, labor market tradition, geographical location, etc. The follow-up has been funded by the Swedish Research Council, and is one of the national follow-ups included in the The Future of Nordic Youth in Rural Regions: A Cross-national Qualitative Longitudinal Study in four Nordic Countries -consortium.