Weys Qaran - Public Administration

Exploring the way to resilient and inclusive labour markets in the EU

"Contributing to knowledge that might improve the labour market positions of these vulnerable groups is really motivating"

Weys Qaran is a PhD candidate in the Department of Public Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Alongside his PhD research and tutoring, he is also contributing to several Work Packages of the INSPIRES (Innovative Social Policies for Inclusive and Resilient Labour Markets in Europe) research project; a prestigious, € 2.5-million, long-term, international project co-funded by the European Commission.

Weys has been involved with the INSPIRES project – an initiative of Erasmus University Rotterdam as part of a consortium of thirteen European research universities – from the very beginning. "After my Master’s Degree, my supervisor, Menno Fenger, asked me to help him write the proposal for the INSPIRES project", Weys says. In the late 2012 the proposal was accepted and early 2013 we officially started.

The project’s main goal is to contribute to the resilience and inclusiveness of labour markets in European countries through in-depth analysis of the evolution of labour markets, employment and social policies and the qualitative and quantitative positions of vulnerable groups on these labour markets.

Surprising outcomes
Last year Weys, together with a PhD candidate from the Sociology department, was responsible for Work Package 1 (WP1). They defined, operationalized and assessed labour market resilience for 29 countries. Some of the outcomes were surprising.

"Some Eastern European countries were unexpectedly performing better than some Western European countries."

Weys "For example, some Eastern European countries were actually performing better than expected in dealing with unemployment rates or poverty and social exclusion rates for different vulnerable groups. In some cases even better than some Western European countries!"

Vulnerable groups
"If you compare national unemployment rates, some countries might perform excellently," Weys says. "But if you look at the unemployment rates of groups, for example in this case vulnerable groups, such as young or disabled people, older workers and migrants, then you get a different picture. So contributing to knowledge that might improve the labour market position of these groups is really motivating."

Smooth transitions
After finishing WP1, Weys is now able to spend more time on his own research, which is also related to INSPIRES. "My research focuses on the influences of governance structures and other factors that affect smooth work-to-work (in Dutch: van-werk-naar-werk (VWNW) transitions of redundant workers" Weys says. Although work-to-work transitions is common in countries such as Sweden, in the Netherlands, it is a recent phenomenon. But what do we mean by work-to-work transitions?

Weys explains: "So when firms move parts of their businesses activities to other countries, introduce new technology, or make cost savings to restructure or recover from external shocks, redundancy may occur which, in turn, increase the risk of unemployment. In this regard, VWNW has emerged as an important policy innovation to prevent unemployment by stimulating the transitions of redundant employees from jobs to jobs."

From job security to employment security?
The emergence of VWNW is part of the large debate on the reforms concerning the Dutch social security system. The debate concerns the shift from job security to employment security.  Job security implies that people have a 40 hours work 52 week a year with same employer for a lifetime. Employment security implies that people have the security to work, but not necessarily with the same employer and for a lifetime.

"As a PhD you get a lot of freedom which helps a lot in finding the right balance between work and private life."

Healthy balance
Two research projects and tutoring obligations: it’s quite a challenge finding the right balance. "But to avoid creating tunnel vision, it’s also important to find a healthy balance between work and private life," Weys states. "As a PhD you get a lot of freedom – you don’t have to start at 9, flex-work is promoted and there’s good external access to our data – which helps a lot in finding the right balance." 

Blood, sweat and tears
Still, Weys describes a PhD as a process steeped in 'blood, sweat and tears': "Your research is your own responsibility. Sometimes you fall, and you have to pick yourself up. You need to have a mentality of not giving up, to be firm in what you’re doing and not let other people decide whether you can do it or not." 

Ultimate ambition
A description that fits Weys – who moved from Afghanistan to the Netherlands on his own, as a refugee, at a young age – perfectly. "I’m a very ambitious person," he states. "After my PhD, which is my first ambition, I would like to work for organizations such as the World Bank or the United Nations; to do something for developing countries. My ultimate ambition is to one day take all the knowledge I have gained back to Afghanistan, to see if I can contribute to society there."