The paper asks how the three countries have retained their low level of youth unemployment through the crisis. An institutional approach is taken, criticizing simplistic ideas on how collective skills systems manage the low level of youth unemployment. The analysis starts with Austria, and compares this experience to the other cases. Comparative statistics are used to describe the way of the three countries through the time period 2004 to 2012. In Austria a main component of managing the low level of youth unemployment is a very strong tradition of youth labour market policy (LMP); the apprenticeship system itself has also been supported quite strongly by LMP for decades. Thus, not the apprenticeship system itself, but rather the employment status of apprentices that has included them into social security and thus into LMP seems the main reason of retaining the low level of youth unemployment. The comparison takes three steps: First the features of the apprenticeship (or ‘dual’ or ‘trial’) systems are analysed, showing that Austrian Vocational education and training (VET) is much more diverse with apprenticeship homogenously situated at the lower end; second OECD LMP statistics show a higher intensity and more concentration on apprentices in Austria, pointing to different patterns for explanation; third labour market figures and policies indicate a more severe situation in Germany, which was quite successfully brought down after the crisis. Overall, apprenticeship appears quite diverse, as are the policy approaches, and it is certainly not an ‘easy fi x’ for problems on the youth labour market.
With respect to the issues of ‘urban education’ two aspects are outstanding in Austria, first the country does not harbour a real big metropolitan area (Vienna is comparatively small with up to 2mio, and there are only two bigger entities with some 100ts inhabitants), second the regional structure is heavily politicised because of a complex federal structure in which Vienna is a contested federal unit because of its definite urban structure different from the other units, and – more importantly – because of a long tradition of political struggles, in particular related to education. These struggles revive along rural-urban and political right-left lines, and are complicated by a regional border that divides the overall Vienna metropolitan region into the state of Vienna as the urban core and its surrounding areas that are part of the surrounding state of Lower Austria. Vienna has a long social democratic tradition, and has been the centre of a social democratic attempt towards school reforms after World War 1 which still casts a cloud over the enduring struggles in education policy, with a tracked school from age ten vs. a comprehensive school at least until age 14 at its core. In a very complex centralist-federalist structure the political discourses about education are mainly situated at the federal level, and follow a historical legacy of a one-size-fits-all approach of an ‘average’-guided systems reform. In the logic of this discourse the urban status of Vienna, as a minority of one among nine federal units, appears as exceptional and ‘problematic’, measured not against the standards of urban education but against the more rural conditions. Consequently, the issues of urban education are not tackled as serious issues to be resolved, but ‘repressed’ in the old Freudian manner behind an average overall structure; this means in particular, that the specific conditions in the urban regions are not even sufficiently visible. The ‘reversed’ political agenda means that the focus is laid more on the rural conditions, comprising a wide network of small schools, and an uneven distribution of the upper level schools between rural and urban regions. Thus the opportunities of educational progress are also distributed in an uneven manner. Within this basic structure the Austrian education system was in particular not very able to cope with the phenomenon of immigration that concerns rather the urban communities, and was also for a long time more or less ‘repressed’ as an issue, so that no sufficient conditions for the education of the immigrant offspring were build. The chapter describes this sketched situation and its emergence based on literature and data analysis. Its focus is on politics and policy, showing how the basic structures and related political practices can mask the issues of urban education and lead to a neglect of the related challenges. The following aspects are included/discussed: urban/rural structures and the distribution of educational institutions in Austria Historical legacies of the political conflict related to the educational structure Current issues in urban education related to the political (in)capacities to cope (structural constraints, distributional issues in financing) (Im)migration as a specific topic concerning urban education.