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Accepted Paper:

Between imagined lives and lived realities: precariousness, feelings of depreciation, and social invisibility among highly educated young adults in Barcelona  
Corinne Schwaller (University of Bern)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with precarious work and life situations of highly educated young adults in Barcelona. It explores how they experience the shattering of their future aspiration and navigate between imagined lives and lived realities.

Paper long abstract:

The current generation of highly educated young adults in Barcelona grew up with the narrative of social upward mobility through education. But even though they did "everything right", many of them are not able to achieve their (socially inculcated) future expectations. Instead of a "good job" and a "good life", they are confronted with precariousness and exploitation at the workplace, social insecurity, high levels of uncertainty, and social decline.

The narrations of my informants all circle around the same experiences: they feel that their abilities and qualifications are not being valued in the labor market, not financially, not socially, not symbolically. The salaries are hardly sufficient to make a living, working conditions are highly precarious, and they are often treated with very little respect. In addition to material struggles, they are confronted with feelings of frustration, disillusionment, and lack of dignity. They expected their employments to be a (more or less) reciprocal relationship and instead find themselves forced to be grateful for being exploited.

The paper argues that the work of my informants is, in many cases, socially invisible, especially when it comes to very short-term employments and to work someone is highly overqualified for. Even though the work is often done in public places and in regular companies, due to its provisional character it is hidden from social recognition. It does not give sense to individual lives and biographies and it does not result in social status or access to state-provided social security.

Panel P032
Value(s) of labour in austerity-era Europe
  Session 1