School-to-Work Transition Survey (SWTS)

The SWTS is a unique survey instrument that generates relevant labour market information on young people aged 15 to 29 years, including longitudinal information on transitions within the labour market. The SWTS thus serves as a unique tool for demonstrating the increasingly tentative and indirect paths to decent and productive employment that today’s young men and women are facing.

Story from the field: Making the move from school to work in Malawi and Zambia

Definition of a youth labour market transition

The ILO SWTS was designed in a way that applies a stricter definition of “stable employment” than is typically used in the genre. By starting from the premise that a person has not “transited” until settled in a job that meets a very basic criteria of “decency”, namely a permanency that can provide the worker with a sense of security (e.g. a permanent contract), or a job that the worker feels personally satisfied with, the ILO is introducing a new quality element to the standard definition of labour market transition.

Why the need to collect labour market information on young people through surveys?

The SWTS serves a number of purposes. First, it detects the individual characteristics of young people that determine labour market disadvantage. This, in turn, is instrumental to the development of policy response to prevent the emergence of risk factors, as well as measures to remedy those factors that negatively affect the transition to decent work. Second, it identifies the features of youth labour demand, which help determine mismatches that can be addressed by policy interventions. Third, in countries where the labour market information system is not developed, it serves as an instrument to generate reliable data for policy-making and for monitoring progress towards the achievement of MDG1. In countries with a reasonably developed labour market information system, the survey helps to shed light on areas usually not captured by household-based surveys, such as youth conditions of work, wages and earnings, engagement in the informal economy, access to financial products and difficulties experienced by young people in running their business.

Blog: The MasterCard Foundation addresses the role of SWTS in confronting data set deficit

How is the SWTS implemented?

In 99 per cent of the W4Y target countries, the SWTS is being implemented through the National Statistics Office (NSO), thus offering an important opportunity for building national capacity on the area of labour market information on youth and at least attempting to ensure some sustainability of the survey within the national statistical agenda.

The Methodological Guide

The methodological guide was designed in 2009 as a means to help anyone interested in running an ILO SWTS. The modular design of the Guide means that it can be used in full – as a package to advise users from the point of conception of the project through production of an analytical report and workshop to present the findings – or in part, according to the specific needs of the user. Over the course of the W4Y Project, the Guide has been updated to reflect the latest thinking in questionnaire designs and tabulation plans. Revised versions of each module will be added here soon. The current edition of the Guide is available here:

Module 1: Basic concepts, roles and implementation process
Module 2: SWTS questionnaires
Module 3: Sampling methodology
Module 4: Key indicators of youth labour markets: Concepts, definitions and tabulations
Module 5: Disseminating survey result

History of the SWTS

The first SWTS questionnaires were developed in 2003 by the ILO to conduct structured surveys on the question of gender equality in youth employment. The first surveys were implemented in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam to inform the preparation of youth national action plans. In 2004, the ILO developed the analytical framework underpinning the concept of transition to decent work and reshaped the data collection instruments. The new framework was applied between 2004 and 2006 to conduct surveys in ten countries – Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Syrian Arab Republic.

Previous SWTS reports