LIVES presents first results at SLLS international Conference in Paris

LIVES presents first results at SLLS international Conference in Paris

The Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies is holding its annual conference from October 29 to 31, 2012 on “Childhood and Beyond: tracing cohorts across the lifecourse”. NCCR LIVES director and several researchers participate.

In 2012 the NCCR LIVES  - Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives - joined the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS). At the SLLS Annual Conference in Paris, NCCR LIVES’ presence is a highlight.

On Wednesday, October 31, a session of the conference will be dedicated to the work of NCCR LIVES. Chaired by Prof. Dario Spini, LIVES director, it will show the first steps and results of the center born in 2011, with a general presentation and some communications on various projects.


The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES: first steps and results
Chair: Dario Spini

Overcoming vulnerability: life course perspectives
Dario Spini, Michel Oris, Laura Bernardi, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Comparing data quality in self- and interviewer-administered life history calendars in a survey of young adults
Davide Morselli, Caroline Roberts et al, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

School to vocational training and labor market transitions: a social psychological approach to life projects and transition management
Véronique Eicher, Christian Staerklé et al, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Personal perception of the professional experience – the role of individual resources on the relationship between professional situation and well-being in adults living in Switzerland
Christian Maggiori, Jérôme Rossier, Franciska Krings, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Poster session

On the first day of the conference, October 29, LIVES members will also present two posters :

Victimization trajectories and well-being of a young cohort who lived through the wars
Rachel Fasel, Dario Spini, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Transition to parenthood and working hours in Switzerland: men's and women'sintentions and practices before and after the birth of the first child
Nadia Girardin, Jean-Marie Le Goff, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

See the full program of the conference.

Photo Svetlana Braun © iStockPhoto
Generational differences at the core of new "Social Report"

Generational differences at the core of new "Social Report"

Several LIVES researchers got involved, under the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, into the editing and writing of this fourth edition, which was launched on October 23, 2012 in German and French.

There is no open conflict but huge cultural differences between generations, and strong forms of intergenerational solidarity, however, within the family. This is the conclusion of the Social Report 2012, an extensive analysis conducted by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, in collaboration with several LIVES researchers. A press conference to inaugurate this work happened on Tuesday 23rd of October at Berne with the editors, organized by the Swiss National Science Foundation, which is funding the project.

The Social Report periodic reports every four years since 2000. This publication, originally created by Christian Suter, professor of sociology at the University of Neuchâtel, has since been institutionalized by FORS, with a different theme at each edition.

An ongoing debate

In a country where the percentage of those aged less than 20 is one of the lowest in Europe, the question of generations has become an issue, following research by the National Research Program (NRP) 52, which had concluded in 2008 that conflicts between generations are virtually non-existent, although they continue to generate  discussions.

Among the editors of the Social Report 2012, Felix Bühlmann, Peter Farago, François Höpflinger, Dominique Joye, and Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello are members of LIVES, while René Levy is part of its Advisory Board. They wrote some of the articles of the book and oversaw the rest with Christian Suter and Céline Schmid Botkin of FORS, who is responsible editor with Felix Bühlmann.

Differences in behavior

Working on the basis of data and indicators from major Swiss and international surveys, including longitudinal and transversal studies, the authors observed differences in behavior between three age groups (18-39, 40-59, 60 and over) in the various dimensions of society (distribution of social goods, cultural diversity, social inclusion, political regulation, society and environment).

The researchers found that intergenerational links are nowadays absent of friendly and professional relationships but remain very strong in the family, which combines more generations than in the past. The contemporary family is indeed less horizontal (less brothers, sisters, cousins) but more vertical (more grandparents and great-grandparents present) than in the past.

Intergenerational solidarity

Intergenerational solidarity is thus a reality only in the family circle. Many adults today take care either of an elderly parent, of grandchildren, or both. At the financial level and still within the kinship, there is a great place for money transfers between generations, through donations and legacies. Outside the family, few relations exist between the groups of age, separated by cultural gaps, be they religious befief, music tastes or sport practices, for example.

Some surprises

Some findings are surprising. Thus, contrary to the popular belief, the 18-39 age group is not less interested in the political debate than the elders. Young people are even more active than their parents' generation was in the 70s, and this participation takes more alternative forms, marked by narrow focus themes, informality, short-term, and a mix between private and public spheres.

Another curiosity, if young people are more concerned about environmental issues, their behaviors are less green than those of seniors. There is a "generational paradox between thought and action," write the authors, which may be explained partly by the mobility imposed by modernity and, on the other hand, by the specific socialization of those aged more than 60, which was driven more by economics than ecology.

Youth’s and elders’ mistrust

Also worth being mentioned is the issue of mistrust between the generations. If seniors have more concerns in Switzerland than elsewhere regarding young people’s threat to public order, the young in turn denounce injustice and lack of respect they feel being victims, especially in the access to employment. The situation of older, however, is not much better in the world of work, but the idea prevails that older workers are better protected by the welfare state, as they will soon receive their retirement pension.

The authors conclude that "certain essential functions of our society - such as the transmission of knowledge or mutual aid in times of vulnerability and dependence - can be fulfilled only if exchange exists between generations and continues ." They underline, however, that "solidarity between generations is (also) a class solidarity "and that "gender, education or income are often more important than our age or belonging to a generation. " Analysis can not be abstracted from these other factors, which are set in a "cumulative or compensatory logic".


Felix Bühlmann, Céline Schmid Botkine, Peter Farago, François Höpflinger, Dominique Joye, René Levy, Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello, Christian Suter (éds): Rapport social 2012: Générations en jeu. Editions Seismo, Zurich 2012, 332 p.

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler © LIVES

Maillard opens Symposium on Poverty, dialog between research and practice

On October 11th, 2012, the Head of the Department of Health and Social Work (DSAS) of the Swiss Canton of Vaud pleaded in favor of a dialectical flow of ideas between public sector and research institutions in front of 300 social workers and scholars.

At the opening of the 2nd Symposium on Poverty in Lausanne, a two-day conference in Lausanne with 300 participating social and academic institutions and the important contribution of members of the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES, the President of the Council of the State of Vaud and Head of the DSAS underlined the mutual benefits of that type of meeting. "Public sector needs to be infused with ideas", he said, adding that researchers needed to be filled in by practitioners on the other hand.

The Vaud minister also endeavored to ensure that he would listen to the social policy users. Based on feeds from an online forum, he said he understood why some low-income families have been rebelling as they find it difficult to obtain social aid. Pierre-Yves Maillard is mainly concerned about "the lengthy procedures" and the fact that "people feel the social policies never apply to them", despite the Canton's significant efforts to improve on poverty: "We must take people's feelings into account and adjust the procedures accordingly", he declared.

Breaking the mindset

The socialist member of the State Council then underlined that some "mental constructions" must be broken down, such as the idea that foreigners are doing better in claiming and obtaining social aid. He also intends to destigmatize the social aid recipients by building more bridges between the pillars of solidarity. "One must have the right to social aid, and the opportunity to get out of it", said Pierre-Yves Maillard, as he called for "seamless relations and a better combination" between the existing schemes.

Finally, he insisted on the importance of empowerment as a therapy through the example of the FORJAD project, which provided training and employment to 1,500 young recipients of the Social Integration Income since it has been launched, and has led to success "beyond our expectations". To conclude, Pierre-Yves Maillard announced that his department together with the Youth and Training Department were looking to develop a policy to prevent social issues based on the model of existing health assistance to families with a newborn child.

The academics' word

The inauguration speech was followed by three presentations. In order to tackle poverty in families, psychologist Heidi Simoni urged to create perspectives for parents and their children as soon as possible: "As subject matter experts, we can help parents conceive and expand their scope of action and thinking."

Marianne Modak, a professor at the School of Labor and Health – EESP Lausanne and a LIVES researcher, emphasized how social workers' value system conveyed gender inequalities. Based on a study she led in 36 social services of Swiss Romandie, she demonstrated that the helper's "normative systems" determine the type of aid they offer, as mothers are often advised to stay home, even when they can earn more than their partners.

Finally, Daniel Oesch, a sociology professor at the University of Lausanne and member of a LIVES research team, brought forward the results of a survey on workers dismissed after plant closures, which he conducted in partnership with Isabel Baumann. He said "the good news" is that two thirds of them got a new job within two years, including those with poor qualifications. The bad news is the heavy drop in job-finding rates after age 55.

As part of the Symposium on Poverty, several workshops, a round-table and the much awaited presentation of Serge Paugam, a reputed French specialist in the social insecurity field, took place on October 12th.



The University of Geneva bestows an honorary doctorate to Glen Elder

For the 2012 edition of the Dies academicus, the Geneva alma mater honors several prominent figures, among whom one of the popes of the life course theory, who continues to teach at 78 years old and remains amazingly accessible.

Professor of Sociology and Psychology at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Glen Elder has inspired many scholars specializing in the study of the life course. His seminal book, "Children of the Great Depression", has influenced generations of academics.

"His perspective is particularly valuable to develop an interdisciplinary perspective that takes into account individual activity related to others in specific and historical contexts," says Prof. Dario Spini, director of the NCCR LIVES.

The proposition to honor Professor Elder on 12 October at the Dies Academicus of the University of Geneva was made by the LIVES codirector and director of the Interfaculty Center of Gerontology and Life Course Studies (CIGEV), Prof. Michel Oris.

"Very special to me"

“An honorary doctorate from the University of Geneva is very special to me for a number of reasons, but most especially because this University and the University of Lausanne represent a major center of life course studies and both doctoral and postdoctoral training in Europe,” writes Glen Elder in an e-mail.

Professor Elder continues to be professionally active and responds indeed readily to requests, as could experience Sandra Constantin, LIVES PhD student, who also approached him: "I enjoyed not only his kindness and availability, but also the advice and recommendations that he gave to me, since the quantitative dimension of my methodological approach is partly the same," she explains.

Glen Elder says that he has followed the life course studies of Swiss social and behavioral scientists for many years, especially in research on pathways from childhood into the adult years : “The North American perspective on the life course has centered on the individual in context, while the European perspective has a distinctive institutional perspective on the welfare state and life course. In addition, life course studies in Europe has always been more engaged in comparative research.  In many ways, these different perspectives reflect the social-historical world of the two continents. But today we find a mixture of perspectives in North America and Europe,” explains the American professor from Chapel Hill.

For Dario Spini, "if I had to pick a central message of his reference book "Children of the Great Depression", it is that what can be seen a priori as a difficult ordeal exacerbating vulnerability for some, can also be a source of opportunity and growth for others. Challenge can also strengthen.”

Glen Elder proves in any case that age is not always a source of vulnerability: “I have now devoted more than 50 years to life course studies and new questions continually emerge that excite me and challenge my mind. I still want to know how individual lives and societies influence each other. And I take great pleasure in opportunities to pass on what I have learned across the years to the next generation. "


© CNRS Photothèque / Hubert Raguet

Serge Paugam: "The poverty rate in Switerland is not negligible"

The French sociologist, specialist of the issue of precariousness, will be present at the Symposium on Poverty. He reveals here some themes of his lecture.

Director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and director of research at CNRS, Head of Research Team on Social Inequalities (ERIS), Serge Paugam is the guest star of the 2nd Symposium on Poverty in Lausanne on October 12, 2012. Interview.

Switzerland is more known for its richness than through its poor. What is your vision of this country from France?

I studied the case of Switzerland in my book "The Elementary Forms of Poverty." Poverty in your country has often been hidden, as if, in principle, there could be no poor. For a long time, doubt remained in the minds. Today, more regular studies help to define this concept, to understand it statistically and discuss it both in universities and other spheres of society. However, I assume that, for many Swiss, the phenomenon of poverty remains marginal. However, in reality, Switzerland, like other European countries, is affected by the crisis. Its poverty rate is not negligible (about 17% if one refers to the conventional monetary definition which is 60% of median income).

Your conference regards "The break of social ties, biographical trajectories and social determinants." Can you disclose the contents in a few words?

My intervention will build on the work that I have led for several years, related to the analysis of the social disqualification process and the different phases that characterize it. More recently, I have referred specifically to the theory of social ties. I'll try to take some methodological issues posed by the analysis of biographical trajectories of people in poverty or insecurity and respond with concrete examples. It will also verify the thesis on the cumulative disruption of social ties from the typology I developed (filiation, elective participation link, organic participation link, bond of citizenship).

Can you give examples of cumulative disruption?

In the story of people who experience social devaluation, it is possible to identify, according to the phase in which they find themselves, ruptures that occurred at some point in their lives and that have led to other disruptions, and ruptures that we can say they are likely to transform quickly into a vicious circle of new difficulties. In our society, it is often the breakdown of the organic participation link, including long-term unemployment, which is causing other disruptions. Unemployment often affects family relationships and sometimes makes solidarity difficult, but it can also affect the couple's life, the elective sociability, notably associational life. It also results in a loss of confidence in public institutions and a decline in citizen participation at elections, for example. My work also showed that this combination of fractures could occur as soon as the individual, although employed, is affected by job insecurity.

You say that strengthening social cohesion pass through actions strengthening each of the four types of social ties and organizing their relation...

Yes, because the four types of links, from the moment they intersect, form the basis from which social integration is possible. Each type of link is defined specifically in each society as it is based on a set of shared norms, but each society also organizes in a normative way the intersection of these four types of links. Thus we can speak of a system of specific attachment to the society in which we live. The research I’m currently conducting consists of a comparative study of these different schemes. I am well aware that the solutions recommended by a system may not be appropriate in another one. In continental Europe, the attachment system is historically based on the principle of multi-intervention solidarity, that is to say based on the strength of the four types of social ties and the search for a balance between them. However, the fragility of each regime nowadays weakens the attachment itself. It is for this reason that I wrote in "Rethinking solidarity" that we must act for each link intersecting with each other and thus allow solidarity inclusion of all members of society.

What trail can the political and social actors then follow?

A system of attachment is not the exclusive work of the State, at least as long as it refers to a democratic conception of the exercise of power, and that one gives to the State a priority role of facilitating and searching consensus between the different forces, often contradictory, which represent the social body. In every society, representations and social norms are constantly changing. It is therefore possible to upgrade and strengthen the consciousness of solidarity as the basis of all social life. The political and social actors contribute sometimes unknowingly, but very often in developing policies that are directly inspired by solidarity with reference to different types of social ties.

You have shown that the foundations of social ties are protection AND recognition. Noting the current stigmatization of people on social assistance, considered as lazy, incompetent and abusing the system, what sense of usefulness is it possible to give to the most deprived in order the collective solidarity not to collapse?

Each of these links in its precarious expression corresponds to an ordeal: filiation bonds refer to the potential deprivation of parental rights - think of parents whose children are withdrawn, they are considered as bad parents, unable to take care of their children, so they are in an inferior position; elective participation link (couple, friendship networks) refers to the event of divorce or separation, but also the hardship of rejection by groups, abandonment, breaking the bond of friendship; in the organic participation link, the key ordeal is unemployment; and finally in the bond of citizenship, there are events in terms of exile, loss of rights related to being a citizen in a given nation.
Strengthening collective solidarity towards the poor is fighting back as much the protective deficit as the denial of recognition they experience daily. Any action that is based on this dual requirement and seeks practical translation in all dimensions of collective intervention is likely to lead to good results. Unfortunately, the action is often thought of in bureaucratic terms and defined by quantitative and categorical objectives.

You also found that there are forms of collective resistance to poverty in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and said we must listen to the poor. What messages would you like to convey?

The motor of inequality today is not only between social groups and integrated rivals in the struggle for profit sharing, but failed in the process of social integration itself, contributing to polarize the population between two extremes: on the one hand, the cumulative force of the four types of social ties that predisposes to a stabilized social integration; on the other hand, the cumulative weakness of these links, or even breaking some of them, which translates into a lack of protection and denial of recognition. In this cluster of weak cumulative links, there are modes of resistance to social disqualification. When faced with the exhaustion of the organic participation link and citizenship link, compensation is often sought in potential resources of elective participation link, the one that can still be mobilized through community networks often organized on the basis of the district of residence. Conflict grows on collapsing traditional community backgrounds, and is based on more spontaneous and more violent forms of expression, as we saw in France at the time of urban riots in 2005. In front of such expressions of social unrest in the suburbs, it is essential to try to understand and interpret what the poor are saying and translate these claims - which are often unformulated - in political terms.

Photo © Stramatakis (UNIL)

LIVES moved to the new building of the University of Lausanne: Géopolis

Most of the LIVES Lausanne team, mainly involving researchers in sociology and social psychology as well as administrative staff, took up its new quarters during the first week of October 2012.

Now reunited on the same floor, professors, senior lecturers and researchers, doctoral students and other collaborators of the management team, discovered their brand new offices, at the top of the building devoted to the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences and Faculty of Geosciences.

View the blog by the University of Lausanne on achieving this immense construction site.

Our new address




Opening new paths in the fight against poverty

Opening new paths in the fight against poverty

On 11 and 12 October 2012, the Canton of Vaud and several academic institutions, including the NCCR LIVES, organize the 2nd Symposium on Poverty at the University of Lausanne. More than thirty specialists, half researchers, half public and social actors, will discuss solutions to a problem that affects more than one in ten people in Switzerland.

Two years ago, the first Poverty Symposium, organized by the Department of Health and Social Action (DSAS) of the Canton of Vaud, the University of Lausanne, IDHEAP, and the Haute école de travail social et de la santé - EEESP Lausanne, was a resounding success with the academic and social workers. A new edition will take place on 11 and 12 October 2012 with 300 participants, mainly in the premises of the IDHEAP Lausanne. The Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES is heavily into play, since three-quarters of scientists involved in the symposium are members of the center.

The symposium (see the full program) will open with a conference by Pierre-Yves Maillard, President of the Council of State and Head of the DSAS, which is entitled "Social policy and life trajectories: cantonal responsibilities." On the second day, the Head of the Social insurance and accommodation service (SASH) of the Canton of Vaud, Fabrice Ghelfi, will also intervene in plenary on the question "People are living longer: to enrich or cost more? "

The other seven plenary lectures will be delivered by academics, including many professors active in NCCR LIVES like Jean-Michel Bonvin, Mariane Modak, Daniel Oesch, Jean-Pierre Tabin, and Eric Widmer. The symposium also offers 10 workshops spread over two days. Again there is a strong footprint of LIVES researchers, who will lead the meetings in duet with practitioners of Vaud administration or other social institutions.

The topics focus, for example, on the life conditions in old age with Prof. Michel Oris, the health of disadvantaged people with Prof. Claudine Burton-Jeangros, employability with Prof. Giuliano Bonoli. Other workshops on childhood, troubled youth, single mothers, disability, and migration will also be addressed.

A roundtable discussion on the possibilities and limits of employability led by Prof. Giuliano Bonoli will close the conference. It promises stimulating exchanges between Jean-Hugues Busslinger, Director of the Centre patronal vaudois, Manuela Cattani, Co-secretary general of the Syndicat interprofessionel SIT, Roger Piccand, Chief of the Service de l’Emploi of Canton of Vaud, and Jean-Pierre Tabin, Professor at the Haute école de travail social et de la santé - EESP Lausanne and LIVES Researcher.

The big event of the symposium is the conference of Prof. Serge Paugam, director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and director of research at CNRS, Head of Research Team on Social Inequalities (ERIS).

Photo Félix Imhof

Claudio Bolzman gets award from Leenaards Found for a project on elderly migrants

Research on the quality of life of older immigrants from Africa and Latin America will be conducted in 2013, a topic still little studied in Switzerland and of growing concern among policy makers.

On the 2nd of October 2012 the Leenaards Foundation will grant several awards to fund research on the quality of life of elderly people. One of them concerns a study related to the NCCR LIVES.

In this project, Prof. Claudio Bolzman, teacher at the School of Social Work, Geneva, and head of the NCCR LIVES IP2, focuses on elders of African and Latin American origin. While these immigrants are known to be caregivers for elderly and dependent people, Prof. Bolzman intends to consider them through a new perspective, that of potential care receivers in old age.

His research, conducted in collaboration with a scientific assistant, Dr. Theogene-Octave Gakuba, will begin in January 2013 and will run for 12 months. Thirty older immigrants - 16 Latin Americans and 15 Africans residing in cantons of Geneva and Vaud - will undergo in-depth interviews. This qualitative study will be complemented by semi-structured interviews with professionals from socio-geriatric institutions and leaders of immigrant associations.

"Participants will be recruited mainly through national associations, but also through personal contacts and calls in the “ethnic media” to diversify profiles of respondents as much as possible", says Prof. Bolzman.

Perceptions and Resources

The issue will be studied in an interdisciplinary way (sociology, psychology, health), focusing on the living conditions of the elderly migrants, their subjective perception regarding their state of physical and mental health, and their personal and social resources to deal with health problems related to aging. Researchers look at how immigrants use health, social and geriatric services available, and if those are adapted to their expectations and needs.

The researchers will also look at the issue of elderly migrants’ interpersonal relationships with their relatives, with members of their community of origin and the host society, what are their strategies to create social bonds and how they are involved in daily activities and associations. Finally, the theme of the relation to the home country and Switzerland will be addressed, especially in connection with a possible return to the country of origin for retirement or funeral.

To better integrate

According to prof. Bolzman, “this research responds to the need for information-gathering and production of knowledge on a subject that has not been studied in Switzerland and about which literature is almost nonexistent. It also falls into the concerns of federal and cantonal authorities to integrate foreign populations resident in Switzerland and to improve the quality of life of older people.”

Recommendations based on findings and wishes expressed by the surveyed immigrants and professionals should result from this project. Research topics to explore in the future will likely also be identified. This research also provides an opportunity to complete the quantitative survey led by Prof. Michel Oris under the IP13 by a qualitative study on populations that are usually poorly represented in terms of statistics.