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Education, agency and labor market mobility in a transitional economy

Tue, March 7, 11:45am to 1:15pm, Sheraton Atlanta, Floor: 1, Georgia 12 (South Tower)


During the economic transition in Russia, non-standard work contracts were important in adjusting the labor market to diverse shocks (Slonimczyk and Gimpelson 2015). This indicates that many individuals were risk-averse and preferred stability. However, entrepreneurial individuals achieve higher labor market outcomes in such dimensions as income and subjective well-being. Agentic individuals are more capable of managing their individual careers in the new market-oriented economic system. Although there is an understanding that some individuals are more able to handle disequilibria associated with economic transitions then the others, there is still a lack of research evidence on the factors of such forms of behavior in Russia. It was shown that labor mobility in Russia indeed results in significant wage increases (Sharunina and Gimpelson 2015). At the same time, returns to vocational and secondary education are much lower than to higher education. This study aims to provide more evidence on the role of education and other factors related to agency and social background in such labor market outcomes as subjective well-being in work.
Main perspective or theoretical/conceptual framework used
Education can boost individual mobility as soon as it can improve prospects in the new industry, or because handling disequilibria requires cognitive abilities (self-reflexivity) and self-directedness. Previous studies assume that higher education supports the “being mode” in the labor market that comprises the elements of motivation and engagement. Individuals are agentic in the acquisition of knowledge, skills, or competences (Su 2011). Agentic individuals engage in redefining and transforming their working life and social practices (Giddens 1984). Individualization assumes that persons coordinate their biographies and career transitions, and this can be identified in agency achievements, such as changing the sector of employment in a situation of an economic restructuring or finding a better paid job.
Analytical methods, research design, or modes of inquiry
Subjective well-being was measured as the overall level of satisfaction with the job, as well as with the specific aspects of work, including remuneration. Labor mobility outcomes were measured as an index: changing the sector of employment and finding a job that brings more money (both variables were measured retrospectively). The analysis also accounts for age, education, gender, parental ISEI, education of parents, economic sector (private or public), and the type of settlement. Regression analysis was run for two age cohorts.
Data sources or evidence
Empirical base of the research is provided by the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey – Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE), 2006 (
Results and/or conclusions
It is expected that individuals with higher levels of education are also more agentic in how they design their labor market careers and they also achieve higher levels of well-being in work. In the further steps of the analysis the method of structural equation modelling will be used.
Significance of the study to the field of comparative and international education
The study contributes to the analysis of education and labor mobility in transitional societies and in countries affected by economic crisis.

Giddens, A. 1984. The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration.Cambridge: Polity Press.
Sharunina, A. W., and V.E. Gimpelson. 2015. Potoki na rossiiskom rynke truda: 2000-2012 gg. [Flows in the labour market in Russia] Economicheskii Jurnal Vyswei Wkoly Ekonomiki. 2015. Т. 19. № 3:313-348.
Slonimczyk F., and V. E. Gimpelson 2015. Informality and Mobility: Evidence from Russian Panel Data.  Economics of Transition. 2015. Vol. 23. No. 2. P. 299-341.
Su, Ya-Hui. 2011. The constitution of agency in developing lifelong learning ability: the ‘being’ mode. Higher Education 62: 399–412.