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A PhD thesis on the plight of older job seekers is now being published in book form

Isabel Baumann’s dissertation has just been released as the 5th issue of the Springer series Life Course Research and Social Policies, which is edited by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. Based on original Swiss data about dismissed workers’ trajectories after plant closure, this publication shows that individuals aged over 55 face strong hurdles in returning to employment. All chapters are available in open access.

For the first time since the launch of the Springer series on Life Course Research and Social Policies in 2013, a single-authored publication has been issued, and it comes from a young researcher! Isabel Baumann focused on the former employees of five companies that underwent plant closure in Switzerland over the recent years. Within the framework of the NCCR LIVES’ IP204 and under the supervision of Prof. Daniel Oesch at the University of Lausanne, her research notably addressed the capacity of these workers to find a new job after layoff. Her results were presented in 2015, when she defended her manuscript and received her PhD. The main finding is that senior job seekers have much more difficulty overcoming unemployment than young and low-skilled people.

Since Switzerland’s low unemployment rate is exceptional compared to other countries, what can this publication bring to the international debate on occupational integration? “It shows that even in a country with low average unemployment, there are substantial differences between different types of workers. Accordingly, it is import to know who suffers most, before designing and implementing measures. In Switzerland, these policies should target mainly older workers, but elsewhere it could be other groups,” Isabel Baumann says.

Nowadays in Switzerland, there is a lot of discussion going on about hiring more senior workers to compensate the expected reduction of immigrants following the vote of February 2014. However, Isabel Baumann points to the lack of knowledge about the reason for older workers’ difficulties to find employment after job loss. She maintains that as long as we do not fully understand this phenomenon it is difficult to predict whether this development will improve older job seekers’ prospects. In addition, she is concerned with the demographic trend of a growing number of baby boomers, being now in their fifties, possibly threatened by exclusion: “The employment rate of this population is comparably high, but the worry is what happens when they lose their job.”

The Springer book follows the same structure as her doctoral thesis, with a slightly punchier introduction. Thanks to the support of the NCCR LIVES, the electronic version may be entirely downloaded for free, but hard copies may also be ordered at a very reasonable price. The NCCR LIVES hopes that this publication will encourage other junior researchers to apply to get their PhD dissertation published in the Springer series.

>> Baumann, I. (2016). The plight of older workers. Labor market experience after plant closure in the Swiss manufacturing sector. New York, USA: Springer, Life Course Research and Social Policies. Vol. 5.