Young people born at the beginning of the year do significantly better on the labour market than their peers born later in the year, a study conducted by Ghent University and the Czech Masaryk University indicates.
Children born at the end of the year are sometimes almost a year younger than their classmates born in January, which can have consequences for maturity, school results, sports performance and social contact.
But after school, this “relative age difference” also has an impact on performance on the labour market, according to research by Professor Luca Fumarco of the Masaryk University and a group of researchers from the University of Ghent, including Professor of Labour Economics Stijn Baert.
“We see that the maturity differences, which were built up earlier, translate into the quality of their labour market performance,” Baert told VRT.
The study shows that those who are 12 months younger than their year-mates are 5.1 percentage points less likely to have a permanent contract.
According to Fumarco, part of the effect can be explained by the fact that older young people are more mature, more likely to have a student job and therefore more likely to make the transition from school to the workplace.
Investing in the younger end of each year group
Baert emphasised the importance of paying extra attention to younger children in education. “It is a question of resources, of money. The question is whether schools have the funds to invest in this. Let us hope so, I think the children deserve it.”
The long-term economic benefits of this early investment in less mature children outweigh the initial costs, Baert stressed: “It is better to remedy this as soon as possible in order to have as many people in work at the end of the day and as many strong shoulders under our social security as possible.”
Previous scientific research has already shown that pupils born at the beginning of the year score better in school results, sports performances and social contact. This is largely down to their development being more advanced and the self-confidence that comes with this.
The study is based on a representative sample of 6,000 Flemish youths born between 1978 and 1980 who were followed until they were 26 or 29 years old.