Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CFP: Youthful Futures? Aspirations, Education and Employment in Asia


Youthful Futures? Aspirations, Education and Employment in Asia

5-6 May 2014
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

This workshop examines the complexities around young people (aged 15-30); their aspirations for education, work and the future; alongside the potential opportunities and challenges they face in realising those aspirations under conditions of neoliberal development and cultural globalisation in Asia’s rapidly developing societies. Over the past quarter century, increasing numbers of young men and women have moved into formal secondary and post-secondary education. Participation in the education system not only prolongs youth as a life phase, but often also carries with it social status. In addition, schooling often changes young people’s expectations about the kinds of jobs they value and their idea of themselves as educated persons. While Asian youth have the possibility of aspiring towards very different futures than their parents could have imagined at the same age, the routes into such futures can be more risky, demanding and insecure. For some, there are many more opportunities for higher education and stable employment, offering prospects for upward social mobility, new consumer lifestyles, and relatively smooth transitions into partnerships/marriage and future family life. Other young men and women may benefit from better and longer periods of education, but find that there is no space for them in the workforce and so they remain un- or underemployed in relation to their educational qualifications. Even though their futures may not develop along a clearly discernible path, young people are often very mobile and alert to opportunities to make money or expand their personal networks. Additionally they may make choices to migrate (locally or internationally) and so stretch familial or cohort relations within other parts of Asia and beyond. The current youth cohorts are forced and exhorted to be more flexible and entrepreneurial and yet they face a shifting global economy. Within a neoliberal context of individualism, this often means that failures in relation to employment, income or security are seen as young people's own inabilities rather than part of structural political-economic shifts and neglect.

In this workshop, we use the social category of youth as a lens for understanding and rethinking the connections between education, youth transitions and the economy. In this spirit, we try to move away from problem-centred approaches in which young people appear as victims of global and local circumstances beyond their control, or are themselves stereotyped either as the ‘future of the nation’ or as troublesome agents. Rather, we wish to highlight how young people define their own conditions and explore possibilities for work and income through social relations with peers and the adults around them. Although youth in Asia may share certain conditions brought on by neoliberal development, youth un(der)employment, proliferation of new communication technologies, consumer lifestyles and global youth cultures, we are mindful of diversity and inequality within Asia’s youth population. The workshop will therefore pay particular attention to questions of autonomy and dependence in youth and key divisions of inequality along cultural, class, caste, ethnic, gender and generational lines.
Participants are encouraged to explore and interrogate the following questions and issues within an Asian context:

  • What are the gendered, ethnicised, and class-based types of futures expected of young people in different parts of Asia and what kinds of futures are young people themselves expecting? How do these social identities affect educational and employment opportunities?
  • What are the aspirational desires of young people and their parents, how do these connect with discourses of aspiration, and what are the material realities?
  • What are the promises and realities of an expanding education system for young Asians?
  • What particular problems do young people in Asian contexts face and tackle in relation to education, training, and employment?
  • What role does migration/mobility play in young people’s search for education and employment?
  • What social relations, competencies, strategies and resiliences are young people developing and utilising to work towards positive outcomes for their futures? What support systems are in place to assist them in these approaches?


We invite those interested in participating in the workshop to submit original paper proposals. We expect to publish selected papers from those accepted for presentation in a special journal issue / edited volume. Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract of 350 words maximum (including a note about methodology and main findings) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 21 January 2014. Please send all proposals to Dr Suzanne Naafs at arisn@nus.edu.sg and A/P Tracey Skelton at geost@nus.edu.sg. For a copy of the submission form, click here.

Successful applicants will be notified by mid February 2014 and are required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000 - 8,000 words) by 15 April 2014. Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Participants are therefore encouraged to seek fund for travel from their home institutions. Full funding covers air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the workshop.



Dr Suzanne NAAFS
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
E| arisn@nus.edu.sg

Assoc Prof Tracey SKELTON
Department of Geography, National University of Singapore
E| geost@nus.edu.sg
Valerie YEO (Ms) :: Management Assistant Officer (Events), Asia Research Institute :: National University of Singapore :: 469A Tower Block, #10-01, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770 :: 65-6516 5279 (DID) :: 65-6779 1428 (Fax) :: valerie.yeo@nus.edu.sg (E) :: www.ari.nus.edu.sg (W) :: Company Registration No: 200604346E

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