Welfare states and the life course
In recent years there has been an increased interest in understanding the welfare state from a life course approach. On the one hand, the welfare state through its laws, policies, and institutions, shapes and structures the life course. The welfare state influences both the timing of life course events, such as the age at which people marry or have children or the age at which people retire, as well as the duration of life course events, such as education and training. On the other hand, individual needs in relation to the welfare state change across the life course. During certain stages of the life course an individual may have more need for help or assistance from the welfare state than at other times. These needs can, in turn, give rise to new welfare state arrangements, as welfare states adjust policies to address changing social risks in society (Yerkes, 2011). In other words, individual life courses and the welfare state are inextricably linked (see Mayer and Schoepflin, 1989). In this chapter we take a closer look at this relationship, introducing the concept of the life course and examining how it has changed in recent years. We begin by defining the life course, as well as introducing a number of other core concepts. In the sections that follow, we look at how the life course has become increasingly dynamic and diversified as a result of the social and economic process of post-industrialisation, as well as differences in the gender order, and other demographic changes. In post-industrial societies, welfare states are increasingly faced with pressures associated with changing and emerging social risks – risks which are no longer absorbed by the family or the labour market (Esping-Andersen, 2002). These risks pose significant challenges to welfare states and we discuss this in sections two and three. In the next section, using examples from Western welfare states we show how the welfare state structures the life course and how macro-level processes affect welfare states (and therefore impact the life course). The final section provides a brief conclusion.
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Yerkes, M.A, Peper, A, & Baxter, J. (Janeen). (2012). Welfare states and the life course. In The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State (pp. 105–114). doi:10.4324/9780203084229-18