Expediting youth's entry into employment whilst overlooking precariousness: Flexi-employability and disciplinary activation in Hong Kong

Victor WONG*, Tat Chor AU-YEUNG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

2 Citations (Scopus)


With an emphasis placed on supply-side interventions such as skills training and incentives enhancement, active labor market polices (ALMPs) are strongly promoted by international organizations and widely adopted across different welfare regimes to boost employment rates. This article first presents the under-examined relationship between ALMPs and employment precariousness, which has posed a challenge to the neoliberal notion of employability and activation. Youth-focused employment policies tend to speed up employment entry whilst downplaying the risk of precariousness and the importance of job quality, and thus further reinforcing the belief that engaging in precarious employment is tolerable if not inevitable. The article then examines the case of Hong Kong, which illustrates that its relatively low rate of youth unemployment may conceal the unfavorable employment conditions confronted by youth. It is argued that the service-led employment policies and short-term vocational training define the employability of young workers in terms of labor flexibilities. The coined phase of “flexi-employability” is characterized by promoting youth's readiness for, and adaptability to, the volatilities and changing demands of the labor market. Arguably, the disciplinary approach to youth activation would only strengthen the work-first principle by enforcing young people to take up jobs available and leave welfare as soon as possible, but without thoroughly addressing the risks and insecurities generated by the labor market in undermining their well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-809
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes



  • activation
  • active labor market policy
  • employment precariousness
  • Hong Kong
  • productivist welfare
  • youth unemployment

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