Twins at the heart of research about inequality over the life course

Twins at the heart of research about inequality over the life course

In longitudinal studies of twins, the effects of genes and social interactions are disentangled, and researchers can show how they interfere with one another. These questions are at the heart of research by the University of Bielefeld’s (Germany) Prof. Martin Diewald. Social studies about twins add value to science and society. Furthermore, they enable genetics to be considered as a social science, not simply as a methodological topic in sociology.

“We need to accept that we start our lives with different genetic endowments and genetic risks, which then are unfolded or blocked by social environments”, says Diewald. His results show that without environment stimulation, genetic skills do not develop. In fact, heritability, or the realisation of genetic potential, increases with age, which makes social interactions decisive for genetics. “What your DNA makes with you depends on your social interactions”, explains Diewald. For his interdisciplinary study TwinLife, which involved sociologists, psychologists and biologists, Prof. Diewald worked with 4000 nuclear twin families, representing over 17,000 individuals, for two years.

250 scholars discuss inequality over the life course during the ecsr 2019 conference in lausanne

From 12 to 14 September 2019, the University of Lausanne hosted the  European Consortium of Sociological Research (ECSR). Over 250 scholars from institutions in 22 countries met to discuss two key concerns of inequality over the life course: the unequal distribution of life chances and life course differences by gender, class and ethnic origin.


Know personal networks to better identify vulnerable people

Know personal networks to better identify vulnerable people

Family solidarity remains at the heart of public policies, despite the "destandardization" of life courses. Indeed, networks of personal relationships have now diversified and rely namely on friends or colleagues. This is shown by the results of the Family tiMes study, which encourages the development of social and family policies that are more grounded in the reality of life trajectories and that would allow for better targeting of at-risk groups.

Individuals' social relationships are built up over transitions in life trajectories, such as parenthood, unemployment or an accident, and the duration of the different stages. In their article, researchers Gaëlle Aeby, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and Eric D. Widmer show that contemporary life courses are subject to "de-strandardization" due to the uncertainty of the trajectories and reversibility of certain events, such as marriage or the choice of a profession. As a result, individual roles change and modify the structure of personal networks.  

The Family tiMes survey, which includes some 800 people born in the 1950s and 1970s, reveals that the network of "very important" people has an average of 4 members. Based on these data, the three researchers identify seven types of personal networks, four focused on family, and three on friends. The nuclear family (spouse and children) is thus at the centre of the relationships of individuals who have become parents in their twenties. On the other hand, networks that give pride of place to friendly ties are those of people who prefer a conjugal life (without children), who are single or who have experienced a marital breakdown. In these networks, friends play a key role as providers of emotional and material support.

Better identify at-risk groups

In Switzerland, solidarity standards, particularly for childcare, education funding or support for the elderly, are still strongly based on family and individual autonomy. In order to better identify groups at risk, public policies would benefit from targeting critical life events. They could thus adjust to the needs of each individual and take into account the hazards of contemporary family trajectories. 

Presentation of the OECD report "Employment Outlook"
Presentation of the OECD report "Employment Outlook"

Presentation of the OECD report "Employment Outlook"

In April, the OECD released the 2019 edition of its Employment Outlook report. Invited by Prof. Michele Pellizzari, Dr. Andrea Bassanini provided us with ideas and recommendations to best face the next challenges of the world of work.

Questions are becoming more and more common. Will the robots take our jobs from us? Should we prepare for a future without work? The answer, given by the latest OECD Employment Outlook Report, is clear. No. Moreover, the employment rate is increasing. However, it is certain that many jobs will be changed and transitions will be difficult. The OECD indicates that 14% of jobs could be automated and that 32% will change significantly.

An effect on the quantity and quality of employment

Two major problems are identified that will have a particular impact on young people and people with low levels of education. On the one hand, the jobs created in the coming years will not be of the same quality as those that are disappearing. Thus, specialized manual work tends to be automated. On the other hand, many people who lose their jobs would already like to work at a higher rate today but are unable to do so, indicating a high rate of underemployment. 

Recommendations to ease the transition

On adult training, the OECD encourages employers to train at-risk groups. Social protection can also be improved, in particular by revising the criteria for granting unemployment benefits or evaluating current funding mechanisms. Better regulation of the labour market will reduce the grey area, which includes in particular the "false" self-employed workers who do not enjoy real rights. A new balance of power is needed to facilitate job changes for the greatest number of people. Finally, social dialogue between trade unions and employers must be maintained and encouraged so that common solutions can be discussed about the future of employment. 

OECD infographics

L'avenir du travail - Vue d'ensemble Future of work - Overview 

Les emplois non-standard Non-standard workers

Les compétences Skills

La protection sociale Social protection

La technologie Technology

For more information: Employment Outlook - OECD website

Programme of the 1st "Swiss Internet Intervention Day" - 8th November 2019

Programme of the 1st "Swiss Internet Intervention Day" - 8th November 2019

The first « Swiss Internet Intervention Day » takes place at the University of Lausanne on 8th November 2019, on the theme “Guided and unguided psychological internet interventions : Tailoring programs to the clients’ needs”.

This first edition will bring together researchers from different Swiss universities working with Internet-based intervention methods. They will share their extensive experience in keynote talks about tailoring interventions to specific populations and the therapeutic alliance. The Swiss Internet Intervention Day will offer an opportunity to share and discover the current richness of the work carried out in Switzerland and internationally as well as develop future questions and research directions.

Subscription through this form is required for this event. 

Information and programme are in the following document and on the website of the University of Lausanne

In addition to this event, Prof. Andersson will give a workshop on Saturday 9th November 2019 on "The application of Internet Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in practice" 

Job openings at NCCR LIVES

NCCR LIVES "Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives" offers two postdoctoral Researcher SNSF positions.

The NCCR LIVES aims at better understanding the phenomenon of vulnerability as well as the means to overcome it by adopting longitudinal and comparative approaches. The scope of this research centre is to stimulate interdisciplinary and international scientific publications and exchanges, and particularly to support younger scholars.

For more information about NCCR LIVES, watch our portrait video

Refugee routes: information night about Afghanistan

Refugee routes: information night about Afghanistan

On September 26th, 2019 the NCCR LIVES will stand alongside the Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) for an event offering several presentations about the situation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, in order to better understand the context in their country and the procedures that they face in Switzerland.

This event will take place in French. Please look at the French version of this news for further information.