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Thesis in progress

Trajectories of precariousness

Karen Brändle

PhD Supervisor: Dario Spini

My thesis is situated within the project “Vulnerability processes across the life course: Cumulative disadvantages, critical events, and socio-psychosocial resources” of NCCR LIVES. The subject of my research is trajectories of precarity, with a definition of precarity as suggested by social quality theory. This approach considers several life-domains, instead of referring to financial aspects only to conceptualize precariousness. The individual as agent of his/her life is central to this approach: Social quality is the individuals’ capacity to act and interact in society. The aim of this thesis is to explore the personal trajectories of individuals in various life situations which could be considered « precarious » by means of biographical methods, namely life calendars. Special attention will be paid to agency and perceived self-efficacy, as well as to the type of interactions with the institutional framework that are maintained by the individuals.


Workers' occupational trajectories following plant closure

Isabel Baumann

PhD Supervisor: Daniel Oesch

This study examines the impact job displacement has on the occupational trajectory of affected employees’, approximately eighteen months after job loss. It analyses the reintegration process of workers displaced by recent plant closures in Switzerland’s manufacturing sector.

The main research questions are:

• Do workers suffer a loss in earnings?
• In what job (occupation and sector) are they re-employed?
• What resources, constraints and strategies determine workers’ positions after reintegration, in terms of subsequent wages, occupation and satisfaction with both work and income?

Our study is based on micro-surveys of approximately one thousand employees from five large industrial firms in Switzerland that shut down between 2009 and 2010. The results will be compared to a reference group created on the basis of the Swiss Labour Force Survey (SAKE) and administrative data.


Cross-border socio-occupational mobility: between constructivist issues and realistic approach to their historical evolution

Julien Chevillard

PhD Supervisor: Dominique Joye

Our PhD deals with the way in which statistical measurement can operate across different national contexts that are not unified by common statistical categories and concepts. To answer this question, we chose to study the daily mobility of French cross-border workers in the Swiss labour market. We first proceeded with an original study aimed at testing the relevance of French socio-occupational categories developed by INSEE, in a context in which they were not supposed to be applied. Secondly, after having checked the relevance of INSEE’s socio-occupational categories in this context, we tested the hypothesis that cross-border mobility corresponds to strategies, especially for younger generations, of escape from downward social mobility in the French labour market. This expectation has been confirmed through a comparison of status attainment between cross-border workers and French workers (who stay in the French labour market) and also through a comparison of cohort dynamics of status attainment in France and in Switzerland.


Transition to adulthood among the second-generation of immigrants in Switzerland

Florence Rossignon

PhD Supervisors: Jean-Marie Le Goff & Jacques-Antoine Gauthier

My thesis aims at studying the integration into the labour market of the second-generation of immigrants living in Switzerland. A great number of studies have demonstrated that the level of education and the occupational status of migrants seem to improve from generation to generation. Notwithstanding, it is of common knowledge that the young from the most recent waves of migration are often disadvantaged compared to those who are originating from the older ones. Indeed, from the 1980s, many migrants coming from Turkey and former Yugoslavia arrived in Switzerland with a precarious status. This latter, which impeded their professional integration, seems to have been transmitted to their children. Our empirical research will be based on the study Cohort LIVES. Its sample will be composed of 1800 people, Swiss and foreigners, aged 15-24 and who have been schooled in Switzerland. Also, we will resort to two methods of analysis. On the one hand, the sequential analysis will allow us to show how the educational and occupational trajectories of individuals may differ according to various sociodemographic factors, such as ethnicity, gender etc. In the second place, the event history analysis, which measures the probability that an event occurs after a certain period of time, will show in which ways structural patterns can influence the occurrence of critical events, such as leaving from the parental home.


Selection criteria established by companies and self-valorisation strategies used by the unemployed

Laura Galhano

Phd Supervisors : Felix Bühlmann and Jean-François Bickel

The Swiss labour market is well known for its low unemployment rate and for its flexibility. It is less known for its high segmentation, especially by gender and nationality. These characteristics support inequalities of access to employment, more specifically for the more vulnerable segments of the population, such as young people, women, workers above the age of 50 and migrants. The aim of this project is to analyse how job position has an influence on the employee selection process (by companies) and on the way that employees and the unemployed present themselves and evaluate their jobs. This thesis is part of the research project “Overcoming vulnerability to unemployment: possibilities and limits of the so-called “active” social policies” of the NCCR-LIVES.

The empirical work focuses on the construction sector in western Switzerland. Construction companies are very structured, with high levels of ranks, and they are strongly segmented by nationality and gender. This research centres on two complementary aspects: 1) concerning the employers, the evaluation of mechanisms conducive to the selection of a candidate for a particular job position; 2) concerning the job seekers, the self-valorisation strategies that they use when applying for a job. We are interested in their perception of the situation of unemployment: a) how is it affected by their life course/ professional history characteristics? And b) how the perception of the situation determines the self-valorisation strategies when they apply for a job? To what extent are these strategies adequate for the evaluation criteria and functioning of organisations? An understanding of these different realities can consequently engage a critical view on the adequacy of actual employment public policies. Data collection with these groups of actors is being done through face-to-face interviews with the employees, employers and the job seekers.


Human rights, institutional violence and life course: Experiences, representations and attitudes of Portuguese immigrants in Switzerland.

Ana Isabel Alves Barbeiro

PhD Supervisor: Dario Spini

The phenomena of migration, as well as the policies and the representations associated with them, constitute a field concentrated in the paradoxical relationships between rights, their universality and their violations.This research aims to study the social representations of immigrant rights and tolerance towards the violations of these rights. It aims specifically to understand how these representations are shaped by experiences of institutional violence over the course of the biographical trajectories of immigrants and by the strategies they mobilise to cope with this violence. These phenomena will be studied with a focus on migration trajectories (namely, those of Portuguese immigrants in Switzerland). Qualitative and quantitative procedures will be articulated through the collection of life stories and life calendars, as well as the quantitative study of attitudes and social representations of the rights of migrants and of institutional violence towards migrants.


Vulnerabilities, identities, communities – a contextual analysis of climates of exclusion and solidarity in Switzerland

Stephanie Glaeser

PhD Supervisor: Dominique Joye

The aim of this project is to study community climates in Switzerland by combining multilevel analyses and spatial approaches. The purpose is to analyse the role contextual factors play in the construction of local realities of exclusion or solidarity, in particular when the population is confronted with problematized minorities like asylum seekers: Which collective identities are relevant in contemporary Switzerland and how are they mobilized by political discourses that provide interpretative frameworks of collective vulnerabilities? To what extent does exposure to these discourses shape attitudes and behaviour towards minorities? How is the reception of these discourses influenced by prevailing climates of social trust and cohesion, and how are these climates in turn shaped by social inequalities? To study these questions, contextual indicators based on secondary sources will be linked to data from an original postal survey and to a more qualitative analysis of the observed dynamics in selected areas.


Differences in well-being in the ageing process: an analysis of retrospective perceptions of events and their relation to the stress process

Nora Dasoki

PhD Supervisor: Dario Spini

The aim of this project is to understand different perceptions of well-being among the elderly within a stress process and life course paradigm. The events experienced and accumulated throughout life mean that by the time people reach a certain age they possess unequal social and individual resources (Dannefer, on 2003). I concentrate on the relation between resources, well-being and the perception of past events. The purpose is to understand differences in perceptions of well-being among the elderly by investigating the way they judge, retrospectively, events which have marked their lives, taking into account differential resources, stemming from their diverging routes through life. It is thus a question of understanding how a person’s current evaluation of particular events experienced in the past can influence how those events relate to well-being.


Teenagers’ occupational choice in Switzerland

Carolina Carvalho Arruda

PhD Supervisor: Dominique Joye

In my thesis, I aim to analyse the different causes of teenagers’ occupational aspirations in Switzerland. I focus on the importance of gender identities in the elaboration of individual occupational attainment. This explanatory factor will be combined with two others: social class and immigration background. My hypothesis is that pupils’ attachment to gender roles and identities modifies the influence of both social and ethnic origin. In order to test this hypothesis, I will use the results from the « PNR 60 - Professional aspirations and orientations of girls and boys towards the end of compulsory school: what determinants for more equality? » survey. This research is financed by the SNSF and carried out among a sample of young students, as well as their parents and their teachers.


Labour Market Turbulence, Occupational Mobility and Workers’ Skill Development over the Life course

Emily Murphy

PhD Supervisor : Daniel Oesch

This thesis is set within IP4 of PRN-LIVES, and examines the relationship between micro-level occupational mobility, educational paths and aggregate patterns of change in the labour market of OECD economies over the last two decades.  Our empirical analyses determine the extent to which intra-generational mobility and skill acquisition dynamics have contributed to these observed changes. Drawing on panel data from three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, we distinguish between workers in declining, stable and growing occupations with the aim of understanding how individuals in declining occupations fare in each of the labour markets.  Does being in a declining occupation necessarily place workers in a vulnerable position or are they able to access jobs in growing occupations? The study identifies the skills and individual characteristics that enable workers’ smooth transitions out of declining occupations towards new jobs within expanding employment sectors.  A further line of inquiry looks at whether national training systems adapt to altered employment opportunities and foster individuals’ formation of new types of skills that successful switches to growing occupations require or that promote upward mobility paths.


Ecuadorian immigration in Switzerland: Transnational social networks, social capital and their influence on structural and socio-cultural integration

Raúl Burgos Paredes

PhD Supervisor: Laura Bernardi

My dissertation endeavors to understand the structural and socio-cultural integration of Ecuadorian immigrants in Switzerland and what the impact of social capital and transnational activities is on such integration. Empirical results in the literature on the relationship that transnational activities have with integration are divergent, although some forms of social capital have been found to aid the integration of non-western immigrants in Europe. In trying to operationalize the concept of social capital in the case of international migration, I will apply social capital instruments through an in-depth qualitative study, which sheds light on how resources are activated and used by Ecuadorian immigrants. Data on documented and undocumented immigrants will be collected, enabling me to do a systematic comparison of the strength and access to social capital among these two different groups, the degree of involvement in transnational activities, and the different strategies they take in order to be integrated in Switzerland. Furthermore, attention will be paid to subjective perceptions of immigrants for the meaning of integration.


Educational Trajectories: Social Origin and Psychological Resources

Jakob Eberhard

PhD Co-Supervisors: Florence Passy and Dominique Joye

This project focuses on the links between social origin, psychological resources and educational trajectories in Switzerland. The educational trajectories at the upper secondary level (apprenticeship, Matura, etc.), examined using sequence analysis, are at the center of the investigation. The following questions,are addressed: a) How do social origin and psychological resources influence these trajectories? b) How do psychological resources evolve under the influence of the social origin and the educational trajectories? c) What is the impact of the upper secondary educational trajectory on the following educational path and professional integration? And how is this impact modified through social origin and psychological resources? d) How do the detected links vary in relation to regional differences in school systems and local labour markets? The main goal is to analyse how psychological resources can lessen any negative effect that social origin has on educational trajectories and to understand how regional characteristics also help to reduce it. Databases used: TREE and ch-x 2010/11 


Elites and Occupational Careers in the Swiss Banking Industry (1980-2010)

Pedro Araujo

PhD Supervisor: Felix Bühlmann

This thesis endeavours to understand the evolution of the Swiss Banking Industry between 1980 and 2010 from a life course perspective. It concentrates on two groups of actors: Elites and Young professionals. The study will address the two following research questions: 1) We want to explore how the historical development of the Swiss banking field has affected the composition of its elites. What type of resources do the banking elites possess? How have they been acquired and how have they evolved across the two selected periods? 2) We seek to examine what are the careers patterns and the representations of a cohort of young banking professionals. What are their educational and occupational trajectories? How do they differ in terms of resources? To what extend do the careers of elites and young professionals share common characteristics? In order to tackle these questions we apply a mixed method design that combines sequential analysis, multiple correspondence analysis and biographical interviews. We use an existing database on Swiss elites that we will extend by the collection of additional data on banking elites and we will conduct a survey with young professionals working for less than 10 years in the bank field.


Precarious occupational integration and social disaffiliation process: The cases of Switzerland and Portugal
(preliminary title)

Pierre-Alain Roch

PhD Supervisors: Dominique Joye and Karin Wall

Labor relations have undergone significant changes over the last decades. Job precariousness and work precariousness weaken “assured” and “stable” occupational integrations. These changes challenge “rigid”, continuous and foreseeable conception of occupational career (the choice of a profession, training, labor market integration, promotion and retirement), and question both material and symbolic recognition that are linked to professional activities. Facing this “rise of uncertainties”, we analyse the impact of precarious occupational integration on social ties, and how particular groups of people are unequally exposed to the “disaffiliation” risk. In order to answer these questions, we draws on data from the FNS study « Family TiMes » and data from a same design research conducted in Portugal. Moreover, analysing occupational integration and social ties of two cohorts (1950-1955, 1970-1975) in two different countries allow us to develop a framework taking into account the specific context studied.


The role of social contacts in finding a way out of unemployment

Anna von Ow 

PhD Supervisors : Daniel Oesch

This PhD thesis is part of a research project, which explores the role of networks as a job search strategy for the unemployed. Thirty to seventy percent of jobs are found by means of social contacts, which clearly highlights their importance as a job search strategy. Furthermore, potential employers might interpret unemployment duration as a negative signal for productivity and effort in looking for a job. Therefore, it is crucial, especially for the unemployed, to be as well informed as possible about different search strategies and their effectiveness. Our study is based on a large-scale survey carried out among 4'500 unemployed job seekers in the canton of Vaud. The survey data have been collected using two questionnaires – one at the beginning and one at the end of unemployment. These data are also combined with administrative data stemming from the unemployment insurance register.Using this comprehensive data set, we investigate the interplay between job seekers' and social contacts' characteristics and its effect on the likelihood of finding a job, on how long this takes and on the type of job. We also explore whether job seekers succeed in mobilizing their social contacts in order to get help finding a job. This allows us to contribute new empirical findings to the literature on the procedural character of job search by means of social contacts, which so far has mainly been investigated theoretically.


Normative motherhood Its implications in the life course of women without children

Vanessa Brandalesi

PhD Supervisors: Laura Bernardi and Marianne Modak

I am interested in women without children and the implication of their condition for their life course. For approaching this subject I decided to use three sociological perspectives that are, complementary and essential for the comprehension of this question: gender perspective, life course paradigm and social networks. Many Western feminists have described the existence of a normative motherhood applicable to women. Women who are childless are perceived as “against the norm” and not meeting the social expectation. To answer this question, I use in my research, three perspectives that are complementary and allow analysing this phenomenon at three levels: individual, couple and social networks. Life course perspective offers the advantage to conceptualize “childless” not as one-point in time choice but as a process. Studying how normative motherhood influences women means also to investigate the woman’s partner role. The gender perspective adds to it that the roles and the interactions within the couple are gendered. Finally, the social network perspective will allow me to tackle the peer groups’ influence on childbearing. My data are semi-structured interviews with couples, and each partner separately. My sample is composed of heterosexual couples, living in Switzerland, where the woman is childless.


Structural Determinants of the Transition to Retirement in Switzerland: a Life Course Study

Ignacio Madero Cabib

PhD Supervisors: Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and Jean-Marie Le Goff

A substantial body of life course research has considered occupational trajectories in Switzerland, focusing either on early or middle adulthood careers. However, the issue of the transition to retirement is receiving increasing attention for several reasons: the emergence of declining birth rates associated with an aging population, a high proportion of active old workers, and continuous changes in the timing and variability of retirements in Switzerland. Moving forward on this topic, the present sociological thesis aims to offer new insights on the dynamics of the transition to retirement in Switzerland (centered on ages between 50 and 70 years), through a life course schema. I concentrate on three life course notions in order to study the transition to retirement: the homogenization, the heterogeneity, and the social vulnerability confronted during such life transition. I use data mainly from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The data will be investigated through the two most important tools of quantitative analysis within life course approach, namely optimal matching analysis and event history analysis.


The Lisbon Strategy on R&D and Innovation in Europe: Regional Dynamics, Inequalities, and Measurement.

Anne Etienne

PhD Supervisor: Jean-Philippe Leresche

The EU Lisbon Agenda (2000) purported to make Europe the most competitive, knowledge-based economy by 2010. Focusing on the economic aspect of the Agenda, this thesis attempts to elucidate whether or not the Lisbon guidelines actually translate into better innovative performance, on the one hand, and to gauge whether political aspects also enter into the equation. Analyses will be conducted at the national and regional level to compare the pre-Lisbon and post-Lisbon periods and test the hypotheses, controlling for economic variables enumerated in the Agenda itself. Furthermore, I will study potential discrepancies across European countries and their regions in terms of diverging starting-points, which should lead to different rates of progress towards improving innovative output. Finally, the thesis also aims to point out recurrent measurement issues in relation to the adequacy of available data and the comparability of different units of analysis utilized throughout the study. 


Coping with unemployment: strategies and resources

Matteo Antonini

PhD Supervisor : Felix Bühlmann 

This project investigates the socio-psychological strategies used to face a situation of vulnerability due to a period of unemployment. This topic is split in three main questions:

  • Do the work trajectories follow typical paths when characterized by a period of unemployment ?
  • Which strategies do the actors use to organize their resources and cope with this period of vulnerability ?
  • Do these strategies change in time and space ?

The analysis is based on individual employment trajectories codified from the longitudinal information collected in the Swiss Household Panel. The sequences are aligned on the first month of unemployment; recurrent paths are described and related to a wide set of resources including economic, demographic, relational, psychological and emotional factors. Time influence is considered distinguishing the trajectories occurred in the pre-2008 European economic crisis and the trajectories occurred in the successive period. Geographical variations are considered comparing the sequences from five Swiss macro-regions defined according to the differences in local policies against unemployment. Methodologically, I apply a life course perspective and a multidimensional approach using sequence analysis and statistical modelling. The central methodological issue is to go beyond descriptions of static variable associations to a description of relationships between processes.


Transition into adulthood of children immigrants in Switzerland: Analysis of familial and professional orientations of Turkish and Albanian youth.

Andres Guarin

PhD Co-Supervisors : Laura Bernardi, Guy Elcheroth

Conducted as part of the NCCR-LIVES IP2, this thesis focuses on the initial familial and professional orientations children of migrants have in comparison to Swiss youth from similar socio-economic backgrounds. We are particularly interested in the resource mobilization process, in relation to these two orientations, that Turkish and Albanian youth experience during the transition to adulthood. The primary research concern is to identify the mechanisms by which young adults’ social networks influence the direction of their paths in life. To do this, we first use data taken from the (ESPA) in order to identify the familial and professional trajectories of youth. Second, we take advantage of the pilot survey of the latest wave of PSM (III), which uses network sampling, and allows us to examine the links between networks and migrant youths’ familial and professional life trajectories.


Transition towards parenthood in Western Switzerland: an analysis of the ‘Becoming parent’ survey

Nadia Girardin

PhD Supervisor : Jean-Marie Le Goff

For my dissertation I use the Becoming parents survey data. I am interested in the appearance of the gender master status (Levy et Krüger, 2000 et 2001). This concept explains the traditionalization process that is brought about by institutional constraints, and which couples undergo during the transition to parenthood. With this view, I am at currently researching the links between what couples express as their child-care sharing intentions before and after the birth of their first child, and the actual division of tasks. I plan to identify which factors have a large impact on these intentions and practices. I will also analyse how couples foresee the transition to parenthood in terms of work, the allocation of child-care duties (to minders or child care facilities) and familial tasks (housework and child care) sharing and what they actually do.


What do parents do for their children? Aspirations, resources and strategies of immigrants’ parental investment in Switzerland

Aurore Moullet

PhD Supervisor : Laura Bernardi

Immigrants are often seen as a disfavoured part of the population. Nonetheless, literature shows that some immigrant groups have better educational outcomes than their native counterparts at equal socio-economic status. It is supposed that parental investment might act as a mediator of the effect of social background, diminishing the negative impact of a lower SES. Indeed, a greater parental investment through higher aspirations and a stronger emphasis on education as well as high cultural capital activities has proven to be part of the explanation. However, according to the existing literature, great disparities within the immigrant population can be observed. Actually, some immigrant groups seem to continuously suffer lower outcomes than natives. Thus, it is not clear why and how certain parents manage to transform their aspirations for their children into higher outcomes while others do not succeed. We build a three-dimension concept of parental investment including aspirations, resources and strategies in order to understand what immigrant parents do to support their children’s education and why.

With an auto-administrated questionnaire distributed to parents of 9 to 16 years old children, we will examine differences between Swiss natives and different immigrant groups in terms of aspirations and strategies. We assume that a lack of resources might prevent some immigrant parents to provide the strategies that are needed to meet their aspirations. We will conduct semi-directed interviews with a sample of individuals from the aforementioned quantitative study that reflects classical situations as well as atypical type of parental investment in different immigrant groups. This will allow us to understand the articulation of the three dimensions of the parental investment concept.


Family form versus family substance. An empirical study on the role of policies in lone parents’ life course in French- speaking Switzerland.

Ornella Larenza

PhD Supervisor : Laura Bernardi

My thesis aims at unveiling the role of the policy context in LPs’ wellbeing in two steps, combining a macro-institutional perspective with a micro-individual perspective. In the first part, I will focus on LPs’ poverty – by far the most common among all outcomes and highly connected with other negative outcomes - and conduct a meta-analysis of the existing literature on the relationship between family policy variations and LPs’ poverty across developed welfare states, to critically summarize the existing knowledge on this relationship. In the second empirical part I will focus on Switzerland. Initially I will analyse how social policies at federal level, in Vaud and Geneva portray parenting. Subsequently I will conduct a longitudinal qualitative case study on a sample of about 40 LPs, paying attention to the way in which they “do family” and face moral dilemmas over their life course in Vaud and Geneva. Finally I will link evidence from the policy analysis and the in-depth study to uncover the associations between LPs’ circumstances and agency and the policy construction of parenting in French-speaking Switzerland.

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