Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Laura Cartwright

Permanently Temping? Youth Labour Markets and Lifestyles in Yorkshire

My research is an investigation into the effects of contemporary neo-liberal capitalism on the lives and experiences of young temporary workers. My key aim is to examine the political, economic and social changes which have occurred over the last thirty years as a result of the shift to neoliberal capitalism, with a particular focus on changes to higher education and labour markets. The expansion and gradual marketisation of higher education in the UK has fundamentally altered the range of options available to young people post-16. In addition, changes to the labour market have impacted upon young people's first experiences of paid employment on a number of levels and there has been a significant rise in insecure and ‘precarious' forms of work such as 'temping'.

By conducting interviews with young people who are employed as ‘temps’ I hope to build up a picture of their transition from compulsory education to further study or employment in order to understand how they have negotiated the choices available to them. I hope to find out how they feel about the work they do, their experiences of, and views on higher education, ‘temping’ and youth labour markets more generally.  Ultimately, my aim is to investigate how the precarious and insecure nature of their temporary role impacts on their personal identity, their ambitions, relationships and plans for the future.

Research Interests:

  • Precarious Work and The Sociology of Labour Markets
  • Neoliberalism
  • Youth Identity and Transitions
  • Social Change


I have previously taught and assessed on the following Level 1 modules:

  • Study Skills
  • Central Debates in Welfare
  • Sociological Thinking


I came to Leeds in 2002 to study for my undergraduate degree and graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2005 with a BA (Hons) Media and Popular Culture. I then went on to study for an MA in Sociology of Contemporary Culture at the University of York, graduating in 2007.

Whilst completing both my BA and MA I undertook a number of temporary/short-term roles, thus gaining first hand experience of the insecure work that was to become the focus of my PhD.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of studying for my BA and MA, and wanted the opportunity to explore a subject I felt passionate about in greater depth.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

By giving a voice to young people in precarious employment, and exploring the complexities of the issues they face, I hope to challenge the prevailing cultural discourse that situates all negative outcomes as a result of individual failure.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

It would be really great to find a job!

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