Transition regimes

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The concept of transition regimes refers to different (national) configurations of the regulation of transitions in the life course. It has been developed in the context of European comparative research on young people’s transitions from education to work. Regimes distinguish clusters of socio-economic, institutional and cultural factors that interact with individual agency. One starting point has been the model of welfare regimes (Esping-Anderson 1990) but apart from different structures of welfare it includes also structures of education systems and youth policies as well as different meanings of 'youth' and 'disadvantage'. The notion of ‚regime‘ refers to the fact that regulation of life course trajectories – and educational trajectories are one key element of these – expands beyond institutional governance including individual biographical constructions. This means that transition regimes distinguish different configurations of power and normality in organising social inclusion and exclusion.

The model distinguishes between four regime types: the universalistic regime in the Nordic countries, the liberal regime in the anglosaxon countries, the employment-centred in the continental countries and the familistic or subprotective in the mediterranean countries.

The model is static and limited as – so far – it does not include Central and Eastern European transformation societies or other non-Western contexts. It therefore is a rather heuristic than descriptive approach that helps to be open for diverse contexts and different normalities (Walther 2006). It helps understanding that national societies underly mechansims of path dependency according to which they interpret global governance – such as lifelong learning – differently (cf. Mayer 2005); while it requires constant development and critique.


Esping-Andersen, Gøsta (1990): The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Mayer, Karl-Ulrich (2005): Life Courses and Life Chances in a Comparative Perspective. In Svallfors, Staffan (Hrsg.): Analyzing Inequality: Life Chances and Social Mobility in Comparative Perspective. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, pp. 19-55.

Walther, Andreas (2006): Regimes of Youth Transitions. Choice, flexibility and security in young people’s experiences across different European contexts, in YOUNG, 14(1), pp. 119-141.

(Andreas Walther)