One-week intensive programme in the Swiss Alps

The first LIVES Winter School on Life Course will take place from March 23 to 30, 2013 in Les Diablerets (CH). About 20 PhD students coming from different European and North-American countries participate in this intensive programme organised by a consortium of four international research centres.

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES (University of Lausanne and University of Geneva), the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children & Families (Oregon State University, USA), the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences  (University of Bremen, Germany), and the Centre for Population, Aging and Health (Western University, Canada) have joined their efforts to organise a new offer for PhD students on topics related to life course studies.

Half of the participants in the LIVES Winter School on Life Course travelled from outside Switzerland, mainly Germany, the United States and Canada. They will work in small groups within 3 interdisciplinary workshops led by international experts in sociology, social psychology, life-span psychology, social demography and social policy.

Prof. Richard Settersten, Prof. Dario Spini and Dr. Véronique Eicher will conduct the module on “Perceptions of the life course in Europe: Age, gender and generation norms”. They will draw on individual and regional variables related to gender and economic inequality (e.g., based on attitudes, behaviours, policies), using the R package Spacom that NCCR LIVES researchers have developed to analyse regional units.

Prof. Ingrid Connidis, Prof. Eric Widmer and Dr Anna-Maija Castrén will lead a second module exploring shifts in family ties in order to advance the empirical study of family ambivalence in old age. They will use datasets made available by NCCR LIVES research and advanced multivariate quantitative methods.

The third module will gather Prof. Walter Heinz, Prof. Felix Bühlmann and Dr. Benedikt Rogge to help PhD students examine life course transitions in the domains of education, work and unemployment. They will propose institutional and biographical perspectives, qualitative and mixed methods, and international comparison of data from Germany and Switzerland.

During this week of work, the promoters of the three workshops intend to create the conditions for writing some collaborative papers with the participants. Skiing, trekking in the snow and “cheese fondue” are also on the agenda…

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When scientists attack the myths about fertility

A European team of 25 researchers focused on the issue of declining birth rates in three German-speaking countries, including Switzerland. They publish a summary of their findings and recommendations in a booklet for policymakers. The deputy director of NCCR LIVES at the University of Lausanne is one of the authors.

"A future with children." This is the vision of a group of interdisciplinary researchers gathered from 2009 to 2012 by two Academies in Berlin with the support of the Jacobs Foundation.

Representing various disciplines - sociology, demography, history, medicine -, the team published, end of 2012, a scientific book in German of nearly 500 pages on fertility and the development of society in three culturally close countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For a less specialized but equally concerned public, such as policy makers, they also released a condensed booklet of 68 pages entitled Myths, Core Concepts and Recommendations on Fertility and the Development of Society. The English translation was published in 2013 and can be downloaded.

Prof. Laura Bernardi, vice-director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES at the University of Lausanne, participated in the project. She describes the publication of the little book on myths as “a successful exercise of messages that the scientific community can send to the society on a matter of importance.”

Fourteen misconceptions about fertility and the aging of the population are deconstructed. No, childlessness is not a phenomenon more pronounced than ever. No, the declining birth rate is not related to working women. No, people of lower socio-cultural level and immigrants do not necessarily have more children than others ...

In their recommendations, the researchers enumerate a number of areas where action could be taken to support birth, whether through social and economic policies, infrastructure, health, education, and research. Services for families and even city planning are discussed. Many ways exist to "improve the situation of children and parents to make it easier to realise the desire to have children”, the authors announce.