The Life‐course Perspective and Social Policies: An Overview of the Issues

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A number of trends are changing the nature of social risks and increase the importance of human capital, adaptability and flexibility. This chapter discusses the usefulness of a life‐course perspective in developing proactive social policies that better fit the changing life cycles of individuals who combine formal work with other activities on transitional labour markets. It pays special attention to the accumulation and maintenance of human capital over the life course and stresses that reconciliation of work and family goes beyond child‐care facilities and parental leave, and involves the entire life course. In particular, longer and deeper involvement in paid employment allows people to exploit their longer life to reconcile the two ambitions of, first, investing in the next generation as a parent and, second, pursuing a fulfilling career in paid work in which one keeps learning. Greater flexibility of working time over the life course requires more individual responsibility for financing leave. Moreover, rather than shielding older insiders through employment protection, labour‐market institutions should enable parents of young children to easily enter and remain in the labour market. Finally, more activating social assistance and in‐work benefits should replace the passive income support for breadwinners that results in high minimum wage floors.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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