28.08.2018: Final report on research project

Public Attitudes Towards the Role of the State and the Private Provision of Training: Evidence from the Swiss Apprenticeship System

Previous research has shown that a large fraction of Swiss training firms appears to be willing to incur considerable net training costs (while also showing that apprenticeship training is profitable in the short-run already on average). One potential explanation for such behavior is that firms act in accordance with the norms and expectations they are faced with in the local labor market they are operating in. In the research described in this proposal we ask whether the norm towards the private (rather than the public) provision of public goods influences the probability that a firm is willing to offer apprenticeship positions.

For our empirical analysis we will rely on data from three cross-sectional studies on the short- run costs and monetarized benefits of apprenticeship training to the firm actually providing the training (“Kosten-Nutzen-Studien”). To measure the local norm that vocational education and training should be provided privately, we will use municipality-level voting results from two votes that asked for more public involvement in the provision of vocational education. Both votes were held at the national level and provide disaggregated, municipality-level variation in the strength of public attitudes towards the private provision of public goods. We will use data from additional sources (such as the Swiss Census) and fixed-effects methods to control for alternative explanatory mechanisms, both observed and unobserved, and instrumental-variable methods to deal with the imminent issue of reverse causality.

We hypothesize that training incidence and intensity among private firms is, ceteris-paribus, higher in regions with a stronger norm for the private provision of training and that there is a higher likelihood of observing apprenticeship positions with net costs during the training period in regions where there is a strong norm towards private provision of apprenticeship training. We also hypothesize that the impact of social norms depends on features of the firm (e.g. firm size) and/or the localities (e.g. size of the locality); allowing us to test additional hypotheses and to thus check the plausibility of our main estimates.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical study on the importance of social norms on firms’ training behavior. Our results will complement the existing evidence from VET research on the determinants of firms’ training behavior. They particularly address the transferability of (parts of) the Swiss VET system into other countries, because they elucidate the role of social or cultural norms for firms’ provision of apprenticeship places.

1.9.2016 to 28.2.2018
Project manager: 
  • Forschungsstelle für Bildungsökonomie, Universität Bern / Centre for Research in Economics of Education, University of Bern
  • Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation SBFI / Secrétariat d’Etat à la formation, à la recherche et à l’innovation SEFRI / Segreteria di Stato per la formazione, la ricerca e l’innovazione SEFRI / State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI