The transition from education to work in the global economy is no longer a straightforward one-time move for young people. In Bulgaria, this change started with the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy in the 1990s and was accompanied by the arrival of high rates of early school leaving, youth unemployment, and a growing group of disengaged youths (NEETs). The European initiatives in support of youth labour market integration are translated locally, with a narrow focus on “employability” while neglecting the many educational, training, and social needs of young people. The analysis in this paper is informed by the theoretical framework of life course research. It starts with an elaboration of the recontextualisation of EU policies such as the Youth Guarantee in the local realities of socioeconomic structures using Eurostat and national data. Second, we present 4 case studies (selected out of a total of 42 in-depth interviews) of young adults aged 18–30 in order to highlight the ways in which young people’s individual agency filters and influences the institutional policies and practices regulating youth social integration. Our qualitative analysis reveals the multiplicity and diversity of youth journeys into work through the institutions and social structures and the inadequacy of the applied policy measures.
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