The life-course perspective and social policies: an overview of the issues

A number of trends are changing the nature of social risks and increase the importance of human capital, adaptability and flexibility. This paper discusses the usefulness of a lifecourseperspective in developing proactive social policies that better fit the changing life cycles of individuals who combine formal work with other activities on transitional labor markets. It pays special attention to the accumulation and maintenance of human capitalover the life course and stresses that reconciliation of work and family goes beyond childcare facilities and parental leave, and involves the entire life course. In particular, longer and deeper involvement in paid employment allows people to exploit their longer life to reconcile the two ambitions of, first, investing in the next generation as a parent and, second, pursuing a fulfilling career in paid work in which one keeps learning. Greater flexibility of working time over the life course requires more individual responsibility forfinancing leave. Moreover, rather than shielding older insiders through employment protection, labor-market institutions should enable parents of young children to easily enter and remain in the labor market. Finally, more activating social assistance and inworkbenefits should replace the passive income support for breadwinners that results in high minimum wage floors.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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