This paper looks at short employment spells in three European countries: the UK, whose labour market is considered the most flexible in the EU; Italy, regarded as the least flexible; and Germany, tightly regulated, but characterised by a deservedly famous apprenticeship system. In particular, it aims to assess whether young people in short-lived jobs stand a better chance of finding a "good job" compared to their older colleagues. The increasingly held belief that - in modern economies - a "bad job" at the beginning of onÈs career is the "port-of-entry" to stable employment and to upward mobility, makes this assessment particularly relevant; i.e. it matters greatly if short-duration jobs are entry ports into better employment or become long term-traps. The lack of accepted benchmarks makes it difficult to reach strong conclusions in regard to the 'efficiency' of labour markets: cross-country comparisons help to highlight the effect of different labour market institutions on mobility and on the soundness of the "port-of-entry" hypothesis.