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Apprenticeships vs. high school: both lead to employment, but salaries are higher with the matura

Does Switzerland allow too many young people to take a high school diploma, at the risk of confronting them with skill mismatches on the job market? Or, on the contrary, are they encouraged to focus too much on vocational training, which limits young adults to specific occupations, making them vulnerable to technological progress? The new issue of the series Social Change in Switzerland answers these two questions by analysing the perspectives for employment and salary that each type of education provide along the career path.

Based on data of the Swiss Labour Force Survey and the Swiss Household Panel, Maïlys Korber and Daniel Oesch, researchers at the University of Lausanne, show that having a Matura with no further university studies does not condemn people to live on the fringes of the job market. The rate of employment for secondary school graduates is very high in Switzerland, and their rate of unemployment is modest. Likewise, contrary to a preconceived idea, workers with vocational training are not at a loss when faced with the structural changes caused by the evolution of professions. Their employment rate remains high even after the age of 50.

Following an apprenticeship is, however, less advantageous with regard to salary evolution. From 30 years of age, workers who have got a high school diploma without higher education receive higher annual salaries than those who have got a certificate of vocational education. A Matura is also a contributing factor to better salary progression throughout the life course. This advantage for those with the Matura is particularly pronounced amongst women.

Results regarding employment for vocational training are thus excellent, but they are therefore less positive when it comes to salary evolution. Employees who only have a Matura are better paid in Switzerland, once they have gained some years of working experience. Consequently, in the Swiss job market there is no indication that there are too many high school graduates. If the aim is to make apprenticeships more attractive, it is necessary to increase salaries, rather than increasingly limit access to the Matura.

>> Korber, Maïlys & Oesch, Daniel (2016). Quelle perspectives d’emploi et de salaires après un apprentissage ? / Beschäftigungs- und Lohnperspektiven nach einer Matura. [What are the perspectives for employment and salary after an apprenticeship?] Social Change in Switzerland No 6, retrieved from

Contact: Daniel Oesch +41 (0)78 641 50 56 /

The series Social Change in Switzerland documents the evolution of Switzerland’s social structure. It is edited by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, the Life Course and Inequalities Research Centre of the University of Lausanne LINES , and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES). The aim is to monitor change in employment, family, income, mobility, voting, or gender in Switzerland. Based on cutting edge empirical research, the series targets a wider audience than just academic experts.


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Vulnerability in Health Trajectories: Call for papers for the Swiss Journal of Sociology

Call for papers for the Special issue 2018, vol. 44(2) of the Swiss Journal of Sociology: "Vulnerability in Health Trajectories: Life Course Perspectives". Submission deadline: September 20, 2016. Gest editors: Stéphane Cullati (University of Geneva), Claudine Burton-Jeangros (University of Geneva), Thomas Abel (University of Bern).

In contemporary societies, the unequal distribution of health results from the influence of a range of social factors. The research on health inequalities has been recently re-visited and partly renewed by life course perspectives on health. Over the life course, social determinants affect individual health trajectories and shape the often sharply distinct health patterns among socially disadvantaged and advantaged groups. Both macro contexts (historical period, economic recessions) and micro contexts (family and working spheres, social networks) define how health trajectories unfold over the life course and how health inequalities develop among and across sub-populations. Such health inequalities continue to grow in many affluent countries, calling for more research at the crossroad of sociology of health and life course epidemiology.

Life course perspectives aim at a comprehensive understanding of the development of inequalities in health trajectories. Health is dynamic and changing over the life course, following different patterns (stability in good or poor conditions, decline, improvement, or recurrent fluctuations). As individuals age, general health slowly declines and is progressively impaired with increasing loss of functional and cognition abilities. In societies characterized by individualization and diversity of lifestyles, the development of trajectories unfolds at the interplay of agency and structure. Sociological conceptualizations of agency and structure contribute to our understanding of the processes by which inequalities in health trajectories occur over time and how social factors (i.e., socioeconomic position, working conditions, marital and family lives, lifestyles, gender, migration, discrimination) impact on health trajectories.

Educational, social security and health care systems influence life course trajectories, the resources individuals use at different stages of their life and their chances of staying in good health as long as possible. Socially disadvantaged groups are structurally positioned in unfavourable conditions in society. Therefore, they are likely to accumulate health risks (e.g. poor working and housing conditions, family circumstances) and to lack the material and
non-material resources needed to cope with the adversities of life and to develop healthy lifestyle habits. Such structural disadvantaged positions put them at higher risk of experiencing health decline earlier in their life course or at a faster rate of decline compared to the wealthier. They are also at higher risk of experiencing non-normative transitions for health reasons (job loss, divorce).

This special issue collects papers examining the processes by which social advantages and disadvantages affect the health of individuals over their life course. Which factors lead to health vulnerability and to chronic illness, handicap and disability, which contribute to an accelerated health decline (either mental, physical or social health)? Alternatively, which determinants have a favourable impact on health and allow individuals to remain in good health as they age? How are these processes influenced by embeddedness of people in the social structure? What are the social determinants (social system, socioeconomic position, family and working lives) and the individual determinants (biological inheritance, emotion, cognition, health behaviours) that moderate these processes? How can family and working spheres either support or impede health trajectories?

This special issue invites empirical papers based on either quantitative or qualitative data, or both. Theoretical papers and systematic reviews are also very welcomed. Papers should address health trajectories with a life course perspective. Analyses pertaining to different stages of the life course (foetal life, children, adolescents, adults, elderly) are welcome.

Guest editors:

Please submit your proposal for a contribution to Stéphane Cullati ( by 20 September 2016.
Your submission for the special issue should include the following:

  • name, email address, and affiliations of all the authors
  • title of the paper,
  • abstract of around 500 words, structured (topic, aim, methods, results, discussion, conclusion).

The guest editors will decide on the acceptance or rejection of the abstract until 20 October 2016.
Selected authors will be invited to submit their manuscript (max. 8,000 words, 50,000 characters including tables, figures and references) by 15 March 2017. The manuscripts will go through the usual peer-review process of the Swiss Journal of Sociology. Accepted languages are English, German or French. More information about the Swiss Journal of Sociology and the submission process are available in
Publication is planned for July 2018.
For any queries, please contact Stéphane Cullati at

How families evolve in Switzerland: the NCCR LIVES’ analysis for Swiss Statistics

How families evolve in Switzerland: the NCCR LIVES’ analysis for Swiss Statistics

Prof. Laura Bernardi and members of her team (Emanuela Struffolino, Andrés Guarin, Gina Potârca) as well as Marion Burkimsher are the authors of the three articles that compose the 1st issue of Demos, a new newsletter of demographic information from the Swiss Statistical Office. Single parenthood, fertility patterns and mixed marriages are the topics.

Lone mothers with children: continuity and change over time

One-parent households represent a growing phenomenon in many European countries. More importantly, the spread of separation and divorce rates across different social groups is fostering greater heterogeneity in the population of lone parents. While census data show that between 1970 and 2010 the share of lone parent households in Switzerland, i.e. indi­viduals living alone with one or more children below age 25, was stable at around 4%, the experience of lone parenthood has substantially changed. Before the 1980s in Switzerland, as in other European countries, one parent households were rela­tively stable living arrangements: once begun, lone parenthood was there to stay. In contrast, since the 1990s, we observe more frequent and faster transitions out of lone parenthood, especially because of the higher rates of secondunion forma­tion and family recomposition. This de­velopment is partially related to the changes in the population composition of lone parents as well as in the normative frame regulating union formation and dissolution. Such dynam­ics pose new challenges for defining, measuring, and imagin­ing efficient policies that support individuals through the tran­sitions in and out of lone parenthood.

Comparing fertility patterns of migrants and Swiss natives

The fertility behaviour of first and second generation migrants is a crucial determinant of population dynamics, particularly so in Switzerland, a country with a high proportion of migrants and a very diverse composition by ethnic group. We describe the differentials in the number of children and the timing of births between Swiss natives and different migrant groups and we interpret them as indicators of integration. We use informa­tion gathered in the Families and Generations Survey of 2013 complemented with data from the Swiss census of 2000.

Mixed marriages and their dissolution

Mixed marriages are defined as marriages between two indi­viduals of different origins. The predominance of such mar­riages indicates the social and cultural distance between the native population, on the one hand, and different immigrant groups, on the other. In this report, we examine how common and how stable mixed marriages are in Switzerland by asking the following questions: Which immigrant groups have more chances of marrying Swiss natives ? And which ones are more likely to divorce their Swiss spouse ? Have younger generations better or worse chances of forming and ending a marriage with a native ?

>> See the full newsletter

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Children have a life outside of school and family time. How should it be organised?

The very first Symposium on the Family took place in Geneva on 31 May 2016, at the request of the new association, Avenir Familles (Family Futures) and its Observatoire des familles (Observatory on the Family) based at the University of Geneva with the support of the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. This day of conferences, workshops and debates brought to light the growing and sometimes contradictory requirements for flexibilisation on the one hand and securement on the other in matters relating to childcare outside of school and family settings.

The first Geneva Symposium on the Family on 31 May at Uni Mail brought together some 90 participants from associations and from state-run, economic and academic bodies in order to consider the topic of arranging and taking responsibility for care outside school and outside the family for children from 4 to 18 years of age. The event, which is intended to be held again on a regular basis, was initiated and organised by Avenir Famille, an association created less than a year ago, which already has around forty partners. It includes a research element located in the Department of Sociology at the University of Geneva under the direction of Professor Eric Widmer, co-director of the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES.

The morning was devoted to three plenary conference sessions featuring six speakers. Gianluigi Giacomel and Antonio Martin Diaz, currently researchers at the University of Lausanne, presented the results of the study Prise en charge extrascolaire et extrafamiliale des enfants genevois (Arranging and taking responsibility for care outside school and outside the family for children from Geneva), carried out in 2013-2014 on behalf of the City of Geneva and drawn from 1,700 households. We learn, for example, that 60% of pupils in Geneva use school canteens and 40% take part in after-school activities in the late afternoon. Almost one in every two children is regularly looked after by a member of the extended family, particularly on Wednesday afternoons. During the holidays, 7% of children do not go away at all, and we can see that organised daily activities have largely superseded holiday camps.

Prof. Widmer then produced an analysis of these results taking into account the socio-demographic profile of the parents. He found that low income is associated with a lower participation in extracurricular or after-school activities and use of the extended family, which raises the question of the supervision of these children, who are "increasingly left to themselves in places where the economic, cultural and social resources are weakest (...) when in fact they should be supported more in order to compensate for the social disadvantages". According to the researcher, migrant families in particular suffer from this "accumulation of deficiencies", resulting in a certain "social diffidence". He concluded by saying that we should not necessarily increase provisioning, but perhaps think about presenting or structuring it differently, appealing to the "collective intelligence" of the participants at the Symposium.

Flexibility versus security

On more than one occasion the two conferences which followed, as well as the workshops in the afternoon, gave food for thought about two current trends in society, flexibility and security, the requirements of which can sometimes be difficult to reconcile.

The sociologist Marie-Agnès Barrère-Maurisson, a researcher at CNRS and a specialist in the relationship between family and work, has identified three stages during the past fifty years in France: the familialism of the 60s and 70s, with a very gender-based division of the paternal and maternal roles, followed in the 80s by a feminist phase, where mothers found a place in the world of work, and finally, starting during the 1990s-2000s, an era of "parentalism" where the child is at the centre, regardless of the nature of the marital relationship between the parents. "What constitutes family today is the child and no longer the couple; it is the only constant in a wide range of parental relationships" the researcher has noted, calling for "a rethink of the way work is organised in order to move from a culture of presence to a culture of performance, that is, make working time as flexible as possible, including for men", whose growing involvement with children has been recognised.

This promotion of flexibility has certainly got a reaction from the public. "I am shocked because, in my own case, I have 60% attendance for 100% performance", noted one participant. Several people then stressed the need to distinguish between flexibility that you can choose and flexibility that is imposed.

This theme was illustrated perfectly at the next conference, hosted by René Clarisse and Nadine Le Floc'h, psychologists and lecturers at the University of Tours. As specialists in chronopsychology they were able to demonstrate the importance of respecting the child’s daily, weekly and annual rhythms, providing more information about the peaks and troughs in attention depending on the time and the seasons. They also provided some interesting data on the needs of children in terms of "parenting time" or, put another way, in terms of a "safe haven", warning about unpredictable working schedules and weekend working for parents, two sources of stress for children with consequences for their attention levels and therefore their capacity for learning.

The stakeholders’ point of view

The five afternoon workshops were an opportunity to review the situation and to discuss the support structures from the perspective of the various stakeholders: public or private schools, extra-curricular associations, companies, family associations or public institutions. The tension between the need for flexibility and the need for security was very evident there.

On the one hand stakeholders are looking for more flexibility in order to open nurseries, create new after-school or extracurricular activities, extend child-care timetables, enable tailored work schedules for parents, etc. But these demands also run counter to another strong trend in society, the trend towards greater security: ever stricter legal and regulatory requirements, anxiety of parents faced with incidents and the academic and sporting performance of children, lack of tolerance for the noisy group activities of young people, stigmatisation of certain less advantaged backgrounds. "We live in a society where it is no longer conceivable that a child could step onto a football pitch alone", was a comment heard during the afternoon.

The workshop dedicated to public institutions also allowed attention to be focused on some serious cases requiring the intervention of the specialist services. There was a lot of discussion about the alienation of young people and the need to improve prevention, viewed as a social investment, but also to strengthen dialogue with parents, proximity and networking, and to try new ways of communicating.

A white paper from the Symposium on the Family will pick up and develop all of these themes. One small but important step for the family in Geneva may be transformed into a giant leap forward for society!

Poverty Eradication and Participation: Between Claims and Realities

Poverty Eradication and Participation: Between Claims and Realities

On 28 June 2016 the School of Social Work at the University of Applied Scienc-es and Arts Northwestern Switzerland will host the 2nd Conference on Social Planning in Basel. Organized by members of the National Centre of Compe-tence in Research LIVES, this event is open to all researchers and practitioners interested in issues of poverty eradication and participation.

In current planning for poverty eradication and prevention both public and private institutions apply procedures which include people for whom the programmes and measures are intended.

The conference proposes to discuss the current status of participation in poverty eradication campaigns, asking the question whether, and if so with what kind of claims and procedures public institutions, welfare associations, social organizations from private industry as well as foundations as civil society groups adopt and implement the participation of people living in poverty in the planning of their programmes and services.

In the fight and prevention against poverty cooperation between agents from the state and civil society will also be a focal point for the conference. A key question in this context will be how decision makers in public institutions and non-government-organizations succeed in putting into place a coordinated and sustainable system of programmes and services.

Two acknowledged experts from Switzerland and abroad will give keynote speeches, followed by 6 workshops which will delve into aspects such as the work with concerned young adults, neighbourhoods or long-term employed.

Organizing Committee:

Further Information & Registration

>> (in German)