Welfare states and the life course

Authored by: Mara A. Yerkes , Bram Peper , Janeen Baxter

The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415682923
eBook ISBN: 9780203084229
Adobe ISBN: 9781136190230


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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.

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