Welfare states and the life course

Authored by: Mara A. Yerkes , Bram Peper

Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631649
eBook ISBN: 9781315207049
Adobe ISBN:


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Individual life courses and the welfare state are inextricably linked (cf. Mayer and Schoepflin, 1989). 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 policies and norms shaping the age at which people marry, have children, or retire, for example, 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 and an individual may have more need for help or assistance from the welfare state at some stages more than others. 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 this chapter, we take a closer look at this relationship, introducing the concept of the life course and examining how the life course has changed over recent years.

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