Social Policy and the Life Course

The working group investigates social policy regulations with regard to changing employment careers and life courses in Germany and in international comparison. Our research focuses on how social policies regulate atypical employment and discontinuous employment careers, 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 in 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 privatised forms of social security, new social policy actors and new concepts of (for example) preventive social policies have emerged. These partly aim at the reduction of changed life course risks and the alleviation of their consequences, and partly they themselves cause such risks.

Against this background, the working group of the endowed professorship "Social policy and the life course" studies the new and old risks of changing employment careers and life courses. We investigate the effects of recent reforms of labour market policies and pension systems in Germany and in international comparison. For this purpose, we apply both quantitative, especially longitudinal methods and interpretative research methods. Important focuses of the working group are in the areas of pensions, old age and long term care. Furthermore, we will look at social policy regulations related to employment interruptions and reductions of work hours (for example using time accounts) and concepts of preventive social policy.

In more detail, we will explore the following topics:

  • Social policy regulations with regard to atypical employment and discontinuous employment careers in Germany and in international comparison: Here, the resulting life course dynamics and the consequences of social policy regulations for social inequalities are essential, in particular with regard to specific groups such as women, migrants or ethnic minorities, those totally or partially incapacitated for work, or small self-employed or freelancers.

  • How individuals perceive uncertainties with regard to social protection and how they deal with them on the level of their daily lifestyle and biographical decisions, for example in the areas of consumption, daily activities, or family forms. This perspective is gaining importance not least because of social policy concepts which increasingly attribute responsibility for social protection and the prevention of social risks to individual actors.

  • Normative concepts of the life course and requirements expected from individual actors in social policy reform and associated debates. Such implicit or explicit concepts and requirements relate to presumed (ideal) abilities and attitudes of individual actors, 'normal' life courses, the division of labour between partners and to the question of what constitutes a just and equitable distribution of social services and benefits.

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

More information:
Publications of the Working Group