Division 2 - Operational strategies and opportunity structures in the life course

The second reporting division includes six work packages (WP) coordinated by the Research Data Centre (RDC-IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) at the Institute for Labour Market and Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg. All WPs focus on problems referring to correlations between business strategies and employees’ lifestyles, from different perspectives. The WPs pursue three aims:

  •  To classify establishments or internal employment systems as opportunity structures for individual participation,
  • To classify life courses and employment histories as an opportunity structure, and
  • To analyse atypical forms of employment with precarious potential within the course of individuals’ lifetimes.

This approach advances the research from soeb 2, which aims to include establishments/companies as institutional structures of opportunity, as well as business strategies as conversion factors for the chance to participate in reporting. The segmentation of the employment system in internal and external, primary (i.e. promising) and secondary (potentially precarious) labour markets is explained by the development of "reference problems" between employees’ participation rights and operational strategies. Political benchmarks for these WPs are the concepts of "transitional labour markets" and "flexicurity".

The analysis of life courses and employment trajectories follows up on the work of “ a social reporting in longitudinal section” of soeb 1 and forms a separate section in soeb 2. The individual life course is defined as a temporally organised structure of opportunities, designed by life courses of other individuals and social institutions. Within this context, phases of life and transient events build a connection: favourable or adverse options accumulate in life courses and can justify secure or precarious phases. The suggested work packages observe participation effects using existing longitudinal microdata and develop indicators and classifications. The regulated labour market and the welfare state of the Fordist formation of capitalism has enabled individually planned life courses, and has at the same time shown a standardising effect. Thus, the main questions of this report division are: How has the relation of autonomy and institutional influence in the life course changed in the transformation of social as well as production models? To what extent is the observed pluralisation of life courses a result of individualisation, i.e. an increase of accessible options of lifestyles? And in what types of situations do life-course-related or life-course-sensitive institutions of the employment system and the welfare state reproduce or deepen sociostructural inequality of options?

The work environment differentiates itself into a variety of different employment systems and work situations. The standard (traditional) employment relationship and the standard employment history still influence employees’ expectations; however, there are additional patterns evolving. Unfortunately, it is not possible to infer from an individual’s employment state the degree of participation on the labour market. However, long-term analyses help to classify discontinuous and atypical employment patterns which may lead to precarious situations (households have to be taken into consideration as well, cf. WP 11).

Coordinated by:

The Research Data Centre (RDC-IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) at the Institute for Labour Market and Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg