Research themes

The Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) is a research institute of the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, established in 1986. The overarching research theme of ROA is the acquisition and depreciation of human capital over the life course in relation to the skills demanded on the labor market.

ROA’s mission is to conduct high quality research that has a strong policy impact. Building on a strong position in academia, ROA aims to inform and inspire policymakers and academics, and thereby to contribute to both scientific research and public and organizations’ human resource development policies. ROA’s research programme is organised in five themes:

  1. Education and Occupational Career
  2. Training and Employment
  3. Health, Skills, and Inequality
  4. Labour Market Dynamics
  5. Human Capital in the Region

The first three themes focus on education and training as point of departure and study the drivers and outcomes at the individual, organizational and societal level. These programs represent ROA’s focus on Education and lifelong learning. The last two programs study the developments in labour supply and demand and the interactions between the two at the national and regional labour markets and the implications for study- and career choices and future skill shortages.


Education and Occupational Career

Program director: Prof. Dr. Rolf van der Velden



The Educational Careers program aims to provide a better knowledge about the Dutch education system with the aim of optimizing the development and use of talent and the optimization choices during the school career and the transition to the labor market.

Education serves several functions in society: the skill production function, the selection function, the allocation function and the socialization function. These functions can reinforce each other but can also be contradictory. Moreover, the way in which education fulfills these functions can be assessed based on various criteria (effectiveness, efficiency, justice and freedom of choice). We aim to provide a balanced view on the functioning of the Dutch education system, taking these complexities explicitly into account. Moreover, we look at the performance of education at different levels: the macro level (national education systems), the meso level (schools / classes), the micro level (students), as well as the relationships between these levels.

Important questions are:

  1. What is the best time to develop certain skills in education?
  2. How are these skills best be developed?
  3. What should be the mix of skills learned at school (e.g. professional versus general skills; key skills versus citizenship; knowledge versus 21st century skills, broad versus narrow specialization)?
  4. Are there trade-offs between the different functions of education and can these trade-offs be avoided?
  5. What are institutional barriers to an optimal performance of the education system?

Research themes

  • Careers in education.
  • Transition to the labor market.
  • Development of performance and citizenship.
  • The role of institutions.
  • Equality of opportunity.


Training and Employment

Program director: Prof. Dr. Andries de Grip



The Training and Employment research program wants to contribute to strengthening the productivity and sustainable employability of the potential labour force. In this respect, current society faces two challenges:

  1. The shifts in skills required on the labor market due to technological and organizational innovations.
  2. The extension of working life due to the increasing retirement age.

These challenges reinforce the need for lifelong learning to keep the skills of the potential labour force at the required level and up to date. This challenge lies at the individual as well as organization and society level.

Research themes

  • Relationship skill obsolescence, training, employability, productivity and labour participation.
  • Effects of HRD and HRM for organization and employees at the organization and sector level.
  • Sustainable employability from a multidisciplinary perspective (change in tasks, skills workload and health) and how this is anticipated or recovered.
  • Sustainable employability of groups with a weak labour market position: lower educated, flex workers, older workers).
  • Reintegration of groups at a distance from the labor market.
  • Labour market for the elderly and retirement decisions.


Labour Market Dynamics

Program director: Prof. Dr. Didier Fouarge



In both research and policy, there is a growing attention for the cognitive and non-cognitive skills that allow workers to perform their tasks at work in an optimal way. An important challenge is to better understand what drives the dynamics in the demand for and the supply of skills in relation to the growing flexibility of the labour market, the growing complexity of work, and internationalisation and automation that affect the nature of workers’ tasks.

Research themes

  • The educational choices of youngsters, and occupational sorting over life course.
  • Changes in the workers’ tasks of workers and how it affects the demand for skills.
  • Commonality of tasks between jobs and the transfer of skills when changing jobs.
  • Adjustments in labour supply over the career.
  • Relationship between work dynamics and wage dynamics.
  • Employability of the low-skilled and the elderly.
  • Skills and retirement.
  • Recruitment choices and training policies of employers.
  • Expected developments in labour supply and demand in the medium term.


Human Capital in the Region

Program director: Prof. Dr. Frank Cörvers



Human capital investments made at the regional level are important to match labour supply and demand, and to stimulate labour force participation, productivity, innovation and growth. Many regional policy makers are challenged by:

  • A lacking responsiveness of the regional educational system to new economic and technological developments.
  • Demographic transitions in the form of increasing migration flows and population ageing, with a declining or more diverse inflow of young people joining the workforce.
  • An insufficient regional pool of up-to-date qualified and highly-able teachers.

These challenges differ between central (‘Randstad’) regions on the one hand and peripheral (‘Randland’) regions on the other, with the latter often being border areas that are more prone to demographic shrinkage. Employers, schools, local governments and private and public employment services can improve the transition between (vocational) education and the labour market by cooperating at the regional level.

Research themes

  • Regional push and pull factors with respect to working and living for people at the higher, intermediate and lower educational level in both the Randstad and Randland areas.
  • Geographic mobility of workers regarding commuting and internal and international migration.
  • Regional educational infrastructure of vocational schools and higher education institutes.
  • Impact of demographic transitions (shrinkage and growth, ageing, migration) on regional labour markets, including the teacher labour market.
  • Barriers for international and cross-border mobility, including differences in tax, pension and social security systems, inefficient diploma recognition, poor cross-border public transport and road connections, language and cultural differences.
  • Labour force participation of vulnerable groups at the regional and local level, such as migrants, low-skilled and disabled people.


Health, Skills, and Inequality

Program director: Prof. Dr. Mark Levels



With this program we explore how Western countries can best prepare today’s youth and workers for tomorrow’s labour market and society. We study how the complex interplay of social background, cognitive and non-cognitive abilities, skills, capabilities, culture, and health explains observed inequalities in education and on the labour market. We assess how current societal and economic trends and technological innovations help to shape the labour markets of the future, study what the implications of these trends are for social inequalities, and assess how individuals, firms, and governments can best respond. We especially focus on some of the most vulnerable groups in Western societies: marginalized adolescents, NEETs, kids from socially disadvantaged families and neighbourhoods, low-skilled workers, older workers, unhealthy children, teens, immigrants.

Important questions are:

  1. Which skills and capacities are essential for successful participation in society and on the labour market?
  2. To what extent do current technological revolutions affect social inequalities in successful participation in society and on the labour market, how, and why?
  3. How, at what time and under which circumstances are the relevant skills best learned?
  4. Which circumstances, capabilities, and lifestyle choices influence our capacity to learn, grow, and flourish?

Research themes

  • Automation of work and future inequalities.
  • Acquisition of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
  • Health, lifestyles, and social inequalities.
  • Vulnerable groups.