Social Policy and the Life Course

The working group investigates social policy regulations with regard to changing life courses and employment careers in Germany and in international comparison. Our research focuses on how social policies regulate discontinuous employment careers, care work and old age security, and on how individuals, on the level of their daily lifestyle, deal with uncertainties in their social protection, and on normative concepts of the life course inherent in social policies.

Changing employment careers and family forms, demographic ageing, increasing demand of long-term care and increasing (labour) migration constitute the major conditions under which social policies and their relationship to life courses are re-negotiated in Germany and in other countries. The dominant welfare mix has changed and increasingly privatized forms of social security, new social policy actors and new concepts of (for example) preventive or investive social policies have emerged. These partly aim at the reduction of (changing) life course risks and the alleviation of their consequences, and partly they themselves cause such risks.

The working group "Sociology with a focus on social policy and the life course" studies the interplay between life courses and social policy regulation against the background of new and old risks in the context of life course transitions and employment histories. We investigate which consequences recent reforms of labour market policies and pensions have in Germany, but also comparing different welfare regimes. In connection with this, our research interests also include life course norms and demands on individual actors in social policy regulation, reform concepts and debates, i.e. implicit or explicit ideals with regard to capabilities and attitudes of individual actors, to 'normal' life courses or to the division of labour between partners.
The main areas in which we apply these approaches are pensions, old age transitions and long-term care. Furthermore, we examine social policy regulations which protect employment interruptions and reductions of working hours especially due to care obligations, and concepts of preventive or investive social policy. For these purposes, we apply both quantitative (in particular longitudinal) and interpretative research methods.

The professorship was funded by the "Network Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research" (Fördernetzwerk Interdisziplinäre Sozialpolitikforschung (FIS), a funding programme by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, until 2023.

More information:
Publications of the Working Group