"A life course perspective on health trajectories and transitions" (Springer Series)

Claudine Burton-Jeangros & Stéphane Cullati (NCCR LIVES IP10, University of Geneva), Amanda Sacker (University College London), and David Blane (Imperial College London) are editors of a book that will be published by Springer in the collection “Life course research and social
policies”, directed by NCCR LIVES Board of Directors (Laura Bernardi, Dario Spini and Michel Oris).

  • Propositions : November 15, 2013
  • Selection of abstracts: December 1, 2013
  • Submission of chapters: March 2014
  • Reviewing: feedback to authors by April 30, 2014
  • Final submission: June 15, 2014

"Transformations of retirement policies" (Swiss Journal of Sociology)

René Knüsel, Jean-François Bickel, Béatrice Steiner, and François Höpflinger are Guest Editors of the Swiss Journal of Sociology Special Issue 2015 41(3) on "Transformations of retirement policies".

  • Deadline for abstract proposals : November 15, 2013.
  • Full papers : June 1, 2014.
  • Date of publication : November 2015.

See the call for papers:

Photo Patrick Clenet, Wikipedia

NCCR LIVES strengthens commitment to life course studies at international level

Several members of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES participated in the annual Conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) in Amsterdam, September 23-25, 2013. The next conference will take place in Lausanne. See you in 2014!

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES) became member of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) in 2012. NCCR LIVES Director, Dario Spini, is the global representative for Switzerland at the SLLS. He was in Amsterdam for the SLLS International Conference from 23rd to 25th September with other LIVES members in order to present their research.

The title of the conference this year was “Growing Up and Growing Old: Health Transitions Throughout the Lifecourse”. Keynote speakers were Eco de Geus, Professor of Biological Psychology, Co-Director of the Netherlands Twin Registry at the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, Mark Hayward, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Mel Bartley, Emeritus Professor of Medical Sociology, Director of the ESRC Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health, University College London.

The sessions covered a variety of topics relating to health in the life course, such as substance use, exercise behaviour, obesity, mental health, education, adolescence and transition to adulthood, old age, socioeconomic background, employment, and more, with about 150 presentations and 30 posters coming from more than 15 countries.

Two LIVES symposia

LIVES members organised two symposia: “At risk situations and well-being: the impact of personal resources”, and “Looking back: functional and psychological health among the generations of Swiss elderly (1979-2012)”.

The first one featured Christian Maggiori (IP7) with “Unemployed professional trajectories – evidences from the first two years of a Swiss longitudinal study”. The researcher showed that when former unemployed individuals find a job that is perceived as unstable, their well-being remain low and quite comparable to that of still unemployed people, whereas the well-being of persons who find a stable job rise up considerably. This finding challenges the dichotomy between employed and unemployed people regarding well-being.

The following presentation by Veronique Eicher (IP9) addressed “Coping with stressful situations in the professional domain”. Then Dario Spini (IP1, IP13) talked about “Social group participation as a coping strategy after the loss of an intimate partner”, and Rachel Fasel, scientific officer at the NCCR LIVES, about “Shattered beliefs: how to cope when the world is not a just place?” (see Book on war traces in former Yugoslavia crosses borders between scientific disciplines).

Other LIVES researchers also presented their work: Gilbert Ritschard, Stéphane Cullati, Mouna Bakouri, Nora Dasoki, Aude Tholomier, Michaela Knecht.

All of them had many opportunities to learn about the methods and findings of important panel studies in other countries like the USA, UK and France, among others.

Next year in Lausanne

The next International Conference of the SLLS will focus on social policy in a life course perspective. The NCCR LIVES team is looking foward to hosting this interdisciplinary event in the premises of the University of Lausanne from 9th to 11th October 2014.

"Lone Parenthood in a Life Course perspective" (Workshop)

The Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES organizes a workshop on June 6-7, 2014, at the University of Lausanne. Abstract submission (between 500 and 2000 characters) is December 15, 2013.

Lone parenthood is an increasing reality in the XXI century, reinforced by the diffusion of divorce and separation. Despite the significance of this phenomenon, current studies and official statistics say relatively little about the process leading to lone parenthood, the nature of such state (transitory, stable, recurrent) and its complementary aspect of non-residential parenthood. How rapidly do single parent re-partner if they do so? How long do people stay lone parents for? What roles do play the age and the number of parents and children? How are roles shared between residential and non-residential parents? How lone parenthood varies between countries, cultures, generations, and institutional settings? What is the role of legal regulations concerning shared custody, parental authority, and financial support to non-residential children?

A life course perspective is essential in order to better understand lone parenthood and non-residential parenthood as part of family dynamics. We address this call to social sciences researchers (demography, sociology, social psychology, political sciences, economics, law) with an interest in the topic of lone and non-residential parenthood. We particularly welcome empirical contributions (quantitative, a qualitative, or mixed methods) taking a life course longitudinal perspective.

The following topics are to be addressed in the workshop:

  • Different forms of lone parenthood (chosen vs. event-driven lone parenthood, in the presence or absence of the non residential parent, etc...).
  • Transitions in and out of lone parenthood and the processes implied in these transitions.
  • Socio-economic, psychological, social well-being of lone parents/non-residential parents.
  • Intergenerational and gender perspectives on lone parenthood/non residential parenthood.
  • Prevalence and characteristics of lone parenthood/non-residential parenthood in comparative perspective (cross national, cross cultural, cross generational comparisons).

The workshop will take place in Lausanne on June 6-7, 2014.

The deadline for the abstract submission (between 500 and 2000 characters) is December 15, 2013. Proposals can be sent to laura.bernardi@unil.ch.

Scientific committee:
Laura Bernardi (University of Lausanne), Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello (University of Bern), Cornelia Hummel (University of Geneva), Marieke Voorpostel (FORS)

17th European Conference on Personality

The 17th European Conference on Personality (ECP17) will be held at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), from July 15 to July 19, 2014.
NCCR LIVES supports the conference.

Submission is open. The deadlines for abstract submission are the following:

  • Submission of a symposium: February 1, 2014
  • Submission of an oral presentation or a poster: Frebruay 15, 2014
  • Feeback on abstract acceptance: April 14, 2014

More information on http://www3.unil.ch/wpmu/ecp17/

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

The first “LIVES Doctor” receives the Faculty Award in Economics and Social Sciences in Geneva

Matthias Studer, who was the first doctoral student of the NCCR LIVES to complete his PhD thesis, received on Friday September 20, 2013, a prize of 2000 Swiss francs. The thesis jury considered that half of his work would deserve a doctorate…

Member of IP6 and IP14 of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, Matthias Studer got his PhD in January 2012. His research has just earned him the Award from the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Geneva.

In his PhD thesis, Matthias Studer shows that women do not have the same opportunities as men to access to doctoral studies and to obtain a PhD in the requested deadline.

The researcher’s demonstration used innovating methods in sequence data analysis. His skills helped develop the TraMineR toolbox, which is nowadays used worldwide.

During the thesis defense, the members of the jury underlined his “amazing maturity”, his “great working autonomy” and his “sense of pedagogy”.

Prof. Cees Elzinga, of the VU University Amsterdam, said that he had read Matthias Studer’s thesis with “great admiration (…) because it really contains two theses, each more than sufficient to be awarded with a doctorate.” He was refering to the demonstration of gender inequalities as well as to the development of methods.

For the 3rd time in a year, NCCR LIVES inform survey respondents

For the 3rd time in a year, NCCR LIVES inform survey respondents

About 2000 participants in the study on individual characteristics and professional trajectories received a newsletter in September 2013. Another study on the loss of an intimate partner in the second half of life also produced such a publication.

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES) is conducting several longitudinal surveys in the framework of its research projects. Large samples of the population in Switzerland thus regularly answer questionnaires about different topics.

These people were informed of the provisional findings of the IP7 and IP12 first waves.

IP7 is interested in the personal characteristics and professional trajectories. The team has just sent a second newsletter in September 2013, eleven months after a first edition about the data collected during the first wave.

IP12 work on couple, divorce and widowhood issues in the second life half. The team presented its initial findings in a newsletter published in March 2013.

All these documents are on line on the NCCR LIVES website in the French and German pages.

City of Mostar. Photo: Mura © iStock

Book on war traces in former Yugoslavia crosses borders between scientific disciplines

The conflict in the Balkans changed the collective identities and self-images of the population. A team from the NCCR LIVES is publishing a work whose theories and methods get off the beaten tracks. Its conclusions question existing theories in the literature. Its interdisciplinary approach goes to a level rarely achieved in this type of publication.

"In the contemporary world, there is certainly no shortage of fragile states, separatist nationalism, violent rebellion, or fierce repression. If the findings that are reported in this book inspire some observers to think differently about the underlying logic of collective action or encourage some researchers to document the collective experiences associated with the violent disruption or redefinition of the communities they are studying, then this book will have achieved its main purpose."

These are the last lines of the book War, Community, and Social Change. Collective Experiences in the Former Yugoslavia, edited by Dario SpiniGuy Elcheroth, and Dinka Corkalo Biruski, which has just been published by Springer, with contributions from some fifteen authors, half of whom are associated with the National Centre of Competence in ResearchLIVES.

"Invited voices"

Besides being a collection of contributions from psychologists, sociologists, demographers and historians, this work also contains the “invited voices” of an anthropologist, a human rights activist and a journalist. All the contributors try to show how the victims of the wars in the former Yugoslavia have confronted and overcome these long periods of violence. Their conclusions demonstrate with what intensity the events of the last decade of the 20th century affected the exposed peoples.

Dario Spini, director of the NCCR LIVES, explains the use of the invited voices as “a way to show that our research results can also be seen in the visible and concrete realities.” In a more general way, he says the work is a “beautiful example of how interdisciplinary research can be carried out, with very different and complementary approaches using the same data.”

Door-to-door survey

What data is being used? The information comes from a survey conducted in 2006 among 5,500 individuals from six countries in the former Yugoslavia - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia. It was part of the TRACES project (TRansition to Adulthood and Collective Experiences Survey), financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Part of the team collaborated with academics from Belgrade, Zagreb and Zadar, as well as Sarajevo. The data was collected over three months by local interviewers who went door-to-door to collect the trajectories of the region’s residents by using life calendars. A questionnaire on the norms and representations of people born between 1968 and 1974 also formed part of the survey. This cohort, who became adults just at the time of war, was in fact more at risk of being involved in the conflict and exposed to it, at a particularly sensitive age.

On the basis of this data, the researchers worked with several themes. The chapter from Dusko Sekulic shows why ethnic intolerance is more a result than a cause of war. In an article by Jean-Marie Le Goff and Francesco Giudici, the complexity, the occurrence, and the evolution of mixed marriages before and after the war are carefully presented. In another section, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and Eric Widmer address the displacement of populations and allude to the considerable role of the politicization of identities. Davide Morselli and Stefano Passini then go on to demonstrate that people who have a strong ethnic identification are more likely to be subject to a feeling of anomie, whatever their actual experiences.

The invited voices bring different perspectives to those derived from the data. Anthropologist Ivana Macek looks at the contrasts of submission and resistance during the siege of Sarajevo. Svetlana Broz from the NGO Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide (GARIWO) recalls the righteous and brave people who refused to follow the path of ethnic hatred. And Florence Hartmann, journalist and former spokesperson of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, shows how this legal instrument failed to answer the needs of the victims.

Questioning key concepts

The last part of the book adopts a clearly psychosocial point of view in order to concentrate on the collective dimensions of vulnerability and resilience, including contributions from Rachel FaselGuy Elcheroth, and Sandra Penic. These authors' observations lead them to question certain key concepts in the literature on this subject. For instance, Rachel Fasel shows that the belief in a just world, described in the literature as a stable resource for any individual throughout their life, has been severely shaken in the former Yugoslavia by the experience of the war. “In the TRACES project, we were working in a totally different context than what had been observed in previous situations, that were less tormenting,” says the researcher. “Actually we noted that the combination of victimization due to the war and socio-economic fragility led to less belief in a just world, which had an impact on the wellbeing of individuals. People not only need to eat and drink, but also to maintain positive beliefs, especially to believe in justice.”

Guy Elcheroth mentions other points that call specific certainties into question: “The literature in social psychology establishes a link between docility when dealing with public authorities and hostility when dealing with foreigners or minorities. This is the syndrome of the authoritative personality, which is absolutely relevant in some contexts. We also noticed this in Slovenia or in Croatia, which were experiencing a period of relative prosperity at the time of the survey. But it is much less the case when you look at regions that have been economically devastated. There a different phenomenon can be seen: the same individuals are often doubly distrustful towards their own public authorities and towards external scapegoats.”

The researcher believes that the book as a whole shows “how the war changed the beliefs of a whole generation.” The experience of working on TRACES also left its mark on the team. Guy Elcheroth has just obtained funds for continuing this line of research, now looking at pluralistic memories and transitional justice in Burundi, in Sri Lanka and in the Palestinian Territories. As for the other members of the group, from TRACES to LIVES, the common theme is of course the study of vulnerability, “a topic that has been with us for a long time,” says Dario Spini.

Spini, Dario; Elcheroth, Guy; Corkalo Biruski, Dinka (Eds.)
War, Community, and Social Change. Collective Experiences in the Former Yugoslavia
Series: Peace Psychology Book Series, Vol. 17
2014, XII, 241 p. 24 illus., 6 illus. in color.





The winter school 2014 will address several life course topics

The winter school 2014 will address several life course topics

From March 22nd to 29th, 2014, the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and four other international research centres organise a winter school in Les Diablerets, little village of the Swiss Alps. The programme include friendship networks of older adults, personal characteristics in unstable professional context, and impact of spatial mobility on family life.

For this 2nd edition of the Winter School on Life Course, a new partner joined the organisers: the Ageing and Living Conditions Programme (ALC) of Umeå University, Sweden.

See the full programme with links to the workshops description.

“Seeking religious ways of coping may constitute an advantage”

“Seeking religious ways of coping may constitute an advantage”

The 2013 Congress of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) will be held at the University of Lausanne, August 27-30, 2013. The NCCR LIVES supports the event and asked the president of the association, Prof. Vassilis Saroglou (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium) to situate the religion question in a life course perspective.

- In your pre-conference, you will talk about "Measuring religious and spiritual dimensions in securalised societies": beyond the methodological aspects, what can you say to non-specialists about the forms and degree of spirituality in our modern societies?

There is today an increased interest and investment of people on what we can call “modern spirituality”. This refers to a global life attitude that implies belief in a sense of transcendence, belief in the meaningfulness of one’s own life and the world in general, as well as the feeling that all beings, human and non-human, are interconnected, which implies some relevant moral concerns. This modern spirituality is partly independent from traditional, institutionalized religion. However, several questions of particular importance are still open today and need further research in psychological and social sciences.

For instance, is this modern spirituality limited only to secularized Western countries or is it present cross-culturally? Is the psychology of the modern spiritual people similar or different to the one of the traditionally religious? In other words, is modern spirituality something new or is it just another word, more socially desirable, to describe typically religious aspirations in contemporary Western societies? Through which terms, using which language, can we measure such a psychological construct in modern secular contexts? As far as it refers to more individualized tendencies and often to a non-personal sacred entity, can spirituality fulfill traditional religion’s role in facing vulnerability through, for instance, social and community support? 

- Which link can you establish between the psychology of religion and the issue of vulnerability in the life course?

Vulnerability has many aspects involved in the intra-individual functioning. Some of these aspects are particularly relevant when it comes to a religious vs. non-religious approach of life. I think in particular on three kinds of vulnerability: social isolation, existential anxiety, and personal events that lead to loss of self-control. With regard to these three types of vulnerability that may appear in people’s lives temporarily (in very specific situations or with more salience in specific ages) or more permanently (among individuals who are psychologically or sociologically more susceptible to vulnerability in general), religion plays a particularly important role; some would say a rather unique one or at least difficult to be replaced by alternatives, given the integrative aspect of religion (beliefs, rituals, emotions, community, norms).

For instance, social isolation of marginalized individuals (e.g., poor people, people with disabilities) or groups (e.g., immigrants, ethnic minorities) fuels specific needs that seem to be often met through religious ways of coping at either the individual or the collective level. The same is true for general existential uncertainty or in particular death anxiety, as shown by recent experimental work supporting the idea that religious individuals are to some extend “immunized” against such internal threat like mortality salience. Finally, a huge array of personal negative events (to name some: illness, death of loved ones, family crisis, economic difficulties, natural disasters) or even some subtle negative experiences introduced in the lab (temporary threat of self-esteem, meaning, and personal control) are typical situations that push people to seek refuge to religious and spiritual resources.

- In a recent publication*, you assume that positive emotions increase spirituality. However, you start by recalling that "Spirituality has mostly been studied in psychology as implied in the process of overcoming adversity, being triggered by negative experiences, and providing positive outcomes"... Are there data about they way people resist to adversity depending on their faith? And can you suggest some ways of increasing positive emotions?

There is indeed massive empirical evidence coming from a variety of methods (longitudinal studies, clinical studies, psycho-historical sources, experimental work in the lab) attesting the compensating function of religion with regard to pre-existing or emergent vulnerability.

However, this is not the whole story about religion. Religion also results from some kinds of positive experiences (especially those that constitute self-transcendent experiences); and religious beliefs and practices boost positive emotionality in general and some positive emotions in particular. Take the simplest example possible: why for centuries, not to say thousands of years, and even still today in contemporary secularized societies, people (many in the past, several today) go regularly (e.g., weekly or monthly) to a religious place for some religious collective or private practice? This is not so because they try to cope with guilt for their sins or to learn more through sermons about the dogmas of their religion. They do so primarily because they want to experience through religious rituals, again and again, opportunities for self-resourcing and self-transcendence of their everyday common reality.     

- Comparing people believing or not in transcendence, what difference can we observe in their wellbeing?

Although the existing evidence is in favor of the believers comparatively to non-believers (overall better mental health, less physical health consequences as a function of stress, even some higher longevity), I do not believe that it is here the heart of the comparison. Indeed, the global effects are of small size; and recent international studies suggest that the effects are present only in societies where religion is highly socially valued, creating thus conditions for strong social support and social adaptation. The key difference locates in the interaction between religion’s effects and individual dispositions: among people with some pre-existing or current vulnerability, seeking religious ways of coping may constitute an advantage. In other words, for happy people, religion is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, in terms of well-being. But for emotionally unstable people, it makes a key difference when you believe or not that life is meaningful, God loves you, and there is some reason to be optimist. Whether these beliefs are illusions or not, this is another story, but from a health psychology perspective we today know the positive effects of some so-called “positive illusions”.

- What are the current trends in the psychology of religion ?

Much more experimental work in the lab (e.g. on the social effects of the nonconscious activation of religious concepts), cross-cultural and cross-religious comparative research (e.g. on Muslims and Christians), cognitive and evolutionary understanding of religious beliefs and rituals, and a deeper dialogue between empirical/quantitative and other qualitative and hermeneutical approaches in psychology of religion.

Of particular interest in the conference of this year in Lausanne is the initiative taken by the IAPR board to organize a one-day preconference, in particular for the younger researchers. The preconference focuses on specific research methodology questions such as measuring religiosity among non-believers, the question of the multidimensionality of religiousness, and several recent advances in using alternative (e.g., implicit and projective) measures especially when studying very specific topics like children’s perceptions of God or the psychological aspects of prayer.


Local organizing committee: Pierre-Yves Brandt (UNIL), Claude-Alexandre Fournier (UNIL), Jörg Stolz (UNIL), Pascal Roman (UNIL), Jérôme Rossier (UNIL and NCCR LIVES), Isabelle Noth (University of Bern).

* Van Cappellen, P., Saroglou, V., Iweins, C., Piovesana, M., & Fredrickson, B. (in press). Self-transcendent positive emotions increase spirituality through basic world assumptions. Cognition and Emotion. See advance online publication

Large participation of LIVES members in an important congress on demography in Korea

Large participation of LIVES members in an important congress on demography in Korea

The XXVII Conference of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) will take place in Busan, South Korea, from Monday 26th to Saturday 31st August, 2013. On this occasion, several authors linked to the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES present papers or chair sessions.

The conference will include over 2000 scientific papers in 21 themes including reproductive health, mortality, longevity and health, population ageing, migration, union formation and marriage. The following LIVES researchers are involved:

Laura Bernardi

Aline Duvoisin

 Jean-Marie Le Goff

Michel Oris

Emmanuel Rousseaux (with Danilo Bolano and Gilbert Ritschard)

Claudine Sauvain-Dugerdil

Book on gendered life course with contributions of LIVES researchers

Book on gendered life course with contributions of LIVES researchers

Prof. René Levy, member of the LIVES Advisory Board, and Prof. Eric Widmer, head of LIVES IP8, are editors of the book “Gendered Life Courses Between Individualization and Standardization - A European Approach Applied to Switzerland”. LIVES members wrote many of the assembled articles.


This volume presents an integrated approach to life-course analysis with innovations on the theoretical, empirical and methodological level. Life courses are considered as multidimensional individual trajectories that are influenced not only by available resources and by trajectories of closely related others (children, partners), but also by gender and by specific institutional configurations. This approach is applied to Switzerland, a society mixing modern and traditional elements.

Table of contents

R. Levy & E. Widmer, Preface


R. Levy, Analysis of life courses - a theoretical sketch

J.-A. Gauthier, Optimal matching, a tool for comparing life-course sequences


J.-A. Gauthier & E. Widmer, Cohabitational trajectories

R. Levy, J.-A. Gauthier & E. Widmer, Trajectories between the family and paid work

F. Giudici & J.-A. Gauthier, Occupational trajectories after childbirth

R. Levy, F. Bühlmann & E. Widmer, Partners' trajectories: dual-, single-, and no-career couples

G. Viry, H. Hofmeister & E. Widmer, Residential trajectories in the early life course and their effects

E. Widmer & G. Ritschard, Life course changes in late modernity: towards destandardization and de-gendering?

F. Bühlmann, Moving upward: occupational trajectories of business economists and engineers

N. S. Müller, M. Sapin, J.-A. Gauthier, A. Orita & E. Widmer, Psychiatric troubles - life-course disorders? Exploring the life trajectories of individuals under psychotherapy

R. Levy, Regulating life courses: National regimes of gendered trajectories


J.-A. Gauthier, E. D. Widmer, P. Bucher & C. Notredame, Multichannel optimal matching: a multidimensional approach to sequence analysis

J.-A. Gauthier, E. D. Widmer, P. Bucher & C. Notredame, Optimal matching and its "costs

A. Gabadinho & G. Ritschard, Searching for typical life trajectories, applied to childbirth histories


R. Levy, Life course analysis - a field of intersections


René Levy, Eric Widmer (Eds.)
Gendered Life Courses Between Standardization and Individualization.
A European approach applied to Switzerland

LIT Verlag 2013, 400 p., 31.90 EUR, br., ISBN 978-3-643-80143-2
To order the book

Photo Yuri © iStock

The evolution of Swiss retirement policy, as seen by sociologists

During the 9th Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association in Bern at the end of June 2013, a workshop organized by René Knüsel (UNIL) and Jean-François Bickel (HES-SO and NCCR LIVES), in conjunction with Béatrice Steiner (UNIL) and Laure Kaeser (NCCR LIVES), examined the issues pertaining to the state pension scheme. One of the organizers, who also presented a paper, compiled the following review of the workshop and its main conclusions.

On June 21, 2013, the Swiss Federal Council approved the outlines of the pension reform scheme, “Pensions 2020”, putting emphasis on maintaining pension levels and consolidating sources of funding for the state pension scheme. The main arguments heard focused on the resources necessary for maintaining the AVS (State Pension and Survivor Benefits) scheme and the second pillar (Work Pensions), as well as on the aspects of extending working life. One week later, it was the scientists’ turn to consider the matter on the occasion of the Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association held at the University of Bern. Within the framework of the C16 workshop, researchers tried to avoid the fiery debates, with their undue focus on ideological and political battles, and instead bring a detached and more analytical perspective to bear.

Increased life expectation, but persistent inequality

In the face of alarmist talk about the need to extend working life to offset the effect of ageing populations, the findings presented evoked the persistence of social inequalities in old age. These disparities, which tend to be overlooked in current debates, stem from divergent life trajectories, in which individual characteristics and structural contexts impact on health and living conditions upon retirement.

While the 1st pillar (state pension, disability and unemployment insurance) is the most egalitarian, thanks to the 10th revision of the AVS, the conditions relative to the structure of the 2nd and 3rd pillars (work and private pensions, respectively) tend to deepen socioeconomic inequalities past retirement age. The 2nd pillar depends, among other things, on the contribution period, income levels and the pension fund, and in fact prejudices against those with irregular career paths and/or low-skilled positions. Women thus run a high risk of discrimination by a retirement system still largely based on the figure of the man as chief household provider. Other sections of the population are likewise affected, such as persons of foreign origin, many of whom have labored hard, such as construction workers or cleaners, and for whom an extension of working life would hardly be conceivable. As for the 3rd pillar, it is based on individual thrift and thus rests on the capacity of individuals to save a portion of their financial income during their working life.

The elderly: push or protect?

Relieved of their professional obligations, retirees remain for the most part no less eager to continue to engage with society. But this does not necessarily hold true for certain economic and political players, who distort this argument to support their views on extending working life. They thus turn the desire of some retirees to take active part in society into an normative precept to make a positive contribution to society and stay economically useful - or at least, not to be a burden. It is evident that current social policy already largely relies on a “sandwich generation” that must often look after elderly parents and take care of the grandchildren at the same time.

For better access to retirement information

With its three pillars based on different principles, the Swiss retirement system is often seen as obscure and inaccessible. Few people are able to grasp all of its points and subtleties. The researchers thus concluded that it was necessary to raise public awareness and improve access to information for every Swiss resident. This should allow every person so minded to take part in current debates on the future of retirement, debates that still remain all too often inaccessible on account of their complexity.

Laure Kaeser

"Enjeux de l’évolution des politiques suisses de la retraite"
("Issues in the evolution of Swiss retirement policy")

Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association, Workshop C16, Bern, June 26-28, 2013
Organized by René Knüsel (UNIL), Jean-François Bickel (HES-SO and NCCR LIVES), Béatrice Steiner (UNIL) and Laure Kaeser (NCCR LIVES)

The workshop organizers would like to thank all participants for their valuable contribution. The following took part in this workshop:

  • "La Suisse et les régimes d'Etat-providence: Les fins de carrières suisses sous le prisme des comparaisons internationales" (Switzerland and welfare-state schemes: Career wind-ups in Switzerland through the prism of international comparisons), Jacques Wels, Free University of Bruxelles
  • "Se maintenir en emploi au-delà de 50 ans en Suisse: un éclairage par le genre" (Staying employed over 50 in Switzerland: a gender perspective), Morgane Kuehni, Magdalena Rosende, Céline Schoeni, University of Lausanne
  • "Rôle et place de la catégorie « travailleurs âgés » dans la réforme du système de retraite en Suisse" (The role and place of “elderly workers” in the reform of Switzerland’s retirement system), Béatrice Steiner, University of Lausanne
  • "Discours et politiques du « vieillissement actif » à l'épreuve des réalités vécues" (Words and policies on the “ageing working population” against real-life experiences), Laure Kaeser, LIVES National Centre of Competence in Research
  • "Les défis du système de retraite Suisse" (The challenges of Switzerland’s retirement system), Jenny Assi, Mario Lucchini and Spartaco Greppi, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland
  • "Vers une nouvelle approche de la vieillesse?" (Towards a new approach to ageing?) An analysis of parliamentary debates within the framework of the 10th and 11th revisions of the AVS), Elizabeth Galleguillos, University of Lausanne
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber
Photo Nicolas Lieber

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES learns a lesson in policy and communication

A roundtable held on June 21, 2013 in Geneva brought social science researchers together with federal parliamentarians and managers of social organizations at the cantonal level. The goal was to find ways to make research more useful in setting public policy. The debate was lively and sometimes cruel for the academics, who need to learn how to better share their knowledge.

"How to connect social sciences with society: Development of family policies at issue": The main goal of the roundtable organized by the National Center of Competence in Research LIVES at the University of Geneva on Friday June 21 was to open up dialog between research, policy and action as well as to identify paths toward improvement.

During the hour and a half of debate organized by journalist Esther Mamarbachi before an audience of 60 people — from inside and outside the academic world — several ideas emerged, reminding everyone of their responsibilities whilst highlighting the limits inherent in each profession.


The director of the NCCR LIVES, Dario Spini, began by underscoring that divisions within the federal system did not make contact with decision-makers and administrations any easier. Liliane Maury Pasquier, socialist councilor at the Swiss Council of States (Geneva), indicated that Members of Parliament sometimes received information from academics, but not always in a form appropriate for political action. She encouraged researchers to use e-mail or the telephone to alert federal representatives when a topic they have data on is on the agenda.

Some participants, such as Walter Schmid, president of the Swiss Conference of Institutions for Social Action, and Jean Blanchard, general secretary of the "Mouvement populaire des familles" (grassroots movement for families), pointed out  how hard it is to make decision-makers take notice of certain realities. Both politicians present, including Lucrezia Meier-Schatz, a national councilor of the Christian Democratic People's Party (Saint-Gall), added that Switzerland's social advances systematically run into a question of costs.


Everyone admitted that research and policy don't advance at the same pace. Several speakers agreed that it makes sense to conceive of associations taking a central role in knowledge exchange between research and policy, as much in formulating questions as in the popularization of solutions, in a similar way to the Family Observatory, as called for by Sylvie Reverdin-Raffestin, director of Pro Juventute Geneva.

A large part of the debate dealt with solutions. The participants asked researchers to better communicate for various audiences, including the general public and economic circles, and not just to preach to the choir. Walter Schmid asked that research programs should be launched based on transparent, participative decision-making processes, allowing real questions to be asked that will interest Switzerland in the coming years.

The National Center of Competence in Research LIVES has already been launched. However, it has ten years left, a real luxury in the research field, where finances often cover much shorter periods. At the end of the debate, Dario Spini said that a stronger will to build bridges had emerged, and that it is now necessary to consider a permanent structure that will guarantee these exchanges. "This is why we wanted to meet in the first place, to know what we should do, and what we will do together." 



 "I wouldn't like to reduce research to providing responses as limited as statistics. [...] Research on family or labor policy is done in an environment of international, global reflection, and proceeds from rather different reasonings. We have answers, but we don't know who to tell, who they'd interest."

"We aren't going to transform all researchers into opinion leaders, and I don't even think that's desirable, because a certain independence needs to be respected."


 "In the area of migration, for example, we know a lot about the integration process, we know what should be done to improve social cohesion, but the political world doesn't want to know."

"It's not enough to know how many children are on social welfare, one needs to know better how this insecurity develops over the life course."


"Sometimes you discover, partly by accident, that there is research that is really interesting for our daily work. Researchers should make a greater effort to share this data."

"When you try to get into the causes of phenomena like stress at work, mobbing, burnout, etc., where you have to address work conditions or corporate responsibility is involved, you can't get any studies."


"The only thing that can get the attention of most Members of Parliament is knowing that the problem is so expensive that it's worth investing in research to change it."

"I often tell researchers, that in this or that field, they're the ones who know. So they ought to tell us — it's a civic duty."


"What we need is the means to justify policy change. Your research is useful, the associations play the role of communicators, and the politicians must try to convince a certain number of people who are not on board with the cause."

"I would mainly hope for a much more fruitful dialog with the economic circles. If you want to advance something, I think it's absolutely necessary to exchange with their think tanks."


"At the cantonal level, issues associated with families are watered down between all the departments, and we can't connect anymore. The issue of housing will be dealt with in one, and the family in another."

"Creation of a family observatory for each canton is vital, because if you want to move ahead, you can't do without it."


"Above all, don't forget teaching! My life has completely changed since I've studied social sciences, and if we create good citizens, people who can think and have real abilities, we can really create a connection between research and policy."


"Researchers need to better listen to politicians, but maybe politicians need to express their needs more clearly. Their goals overlap, but only partially. Unfortunately, perhaps, we don't build our careers on the answers we provide for the country, or in any case only partially, and I think that this type of event is important for both sides and should be held again in the future."

Life course approach presented at the SSS Congress

Life course approach presented at the SSS Congress

The 9th Congress of the Swiss Sociological Society will be held June 26-28, 2013 at the University of Bern. It is devoted to the topic “Inequality and Integration in Times of Crisis”. Almost 40 researchers working at the LIVES national research center will be contributing.

Chaired by Eric Widmer, professor at the University of Geneva and head of IP8 at the NCCR LIVES, the Swiss Sociological Society will present many contributions by academics involved in LIVES projects at the 2013 Congress, organized by the University of Bern Institute of Sociology.

Thursday, June 27

On June 27, a plenary session (B5) will be devoted to “La jeunesse en temps de crise. De catégorie dangereuse à catégorie à problèmes?” This is organized by members of IP5 at the NCCR LIVES: Jean-Pierre Tabin, Jean-Michel Bonvin, Jean-François Bickel and Felix Bühlmann. At this session, a research project by IP9 at LIVES will be presented by Christian Staerklé: "Inégalités, vulnérabilités et régulation de projets de vie des jeunes : Une approche psychosociale" (with Alain Clémence, Véronique Eicher, Mouna Bakouri and Marlène Carvalhosa Barbosa). Another presentation, "Les conséquences sociales de l’utilisation de la catégorie ‘jeunes en difficulté’", will be given by Jean-Pierre Tabin (with Anne Perriard).

A workshop (A01) organized for the same day by Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and called "Life course poverty and vulnerability" will feature Nora Dasoki presenting "Trajectoires de bonheur et de vulnérabilité: l’évaluation rétrospective du parcours de vie" (with Davide Morselli and Dario Spini). Anna von Ow will present “Overcoming a critical life course event – how relevant are social contacts for unemployed individuals’ return to jobs?” Finally, Felix Bühlmann will review “Trajectories of Vulnerability in Switzerland”.

Another workshop (B01) organized by Jacques-Antoine Gauthier will cover “Life course and personal relationships”.

At the workshop (A04), “Des mesures d’insertion professionnelle au workfare : études de cas en débats”, Laura Galhano and Anne Perriard will present “Des catégories de la vulnérabilité sociale aux pratiques de recrutement des entreprises”.

The workshop (B11) covering “Modelle sozialer Ungleichheit (DGS - Sektion Modellbildung und Simulation)" will provide Isabel Baumann an opportunity to explain "How to survey displaced industrial workers in Switzerland: survey bias and ways around it" (with Daniel Oesch and Caroline Vandenplas).

Friday, June 28

On June 28, the plenary session (C5) "Integration of Migrants in Comparative Perspective" will welcome Laura Bernardi for "Comparing Integration of first and second generation migrants" (with Claudio Bolzman).

Then the workshop (C01) devoted to "Life course, occupation and mobility", organized by Jacques-Antoine Gauthier, will include Andrés Guarin on: "Access to the labor market among second-generation immigrants in Switzerland".

In the workshop (C03) on "Family diversity, new family forms and inequality", Manuela Schicka will present "What Determines Inequalities in Conjugal Quality? A Configurational Approach to Explain Differences in Relationship Outcomes"; Nasser Tafferant "Parcours dans la monoparentalité"; and Nadia Girardin "Intentions and practices of Swiss couples regarding childcare solutions during transition to parenthood" (with Jean-Marie Le Goff).

Workshop (C07), “Unsicherheit und Abstiegsängste – Wie reagiert die Mittelschicht auf die Krise? Empirische Analysen von Handlungsstrategien” will feature Daniel Oesch asking "Is the middle class declining? An empirical analysis of occupational change in Western Europe since 1990".

Workshop (C16), organized mainly by Jean-François Bickel, will go into "Enjeux de l’évolution des politiques suisses de la retraite". Laure Kaeser will present "Discours et politiques du ‘vieillissement actif’ à l’épreuve des réalités vécues”.

At workshop (D01), covering "Life course and later life" and again organized by Jacques-Antoine Gauthier, Ignacio Madero Cabib will present "The transition to retirement in Switzerland: A life-course study about retirement timing" (with Jacques-Antoine Gauthier, Jean-Marie Le Goff and Francesco Laganà); Rainer Gabriel "After the silent revolution: Poverty amongst the elderly population in Switzerland 1979" (with Michel Oris); and Julia Henke "Inequality in Quality of Life among the Swiss Elderly: A Multidimensional Approach".

Workshop (D12) looking at "Practice, Reflexivity, Identity and Inequality" will present a new presentation by Laurence Bachmann: "Transformer le genre par un travail réflexif. Le cas des hommes ‘progressistes’ de la baie de San Francisco".

Finally, at workshop (D14), dealing with "Elites in Times of Crisis" and organized by Pedro Araujo and Felix Bühlmann, the latter will present "European Business Elites: Convergence through internationalization?" (with Eric Davoine and Claudio Ravasi); André Mach will present "D’une globalisation à l’autre: Transformations du profil des élites économiques suisses dans la longue durée (1910-2010)" (with Thomas David and Stéphanie Ginalski); and Pedro Araujo will trace "The reconfiguration of elites in the Swiss banking field (1980-2010)".

Towards useful research to build social policies

Towards useful research to build social policies

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES) wishes to promote the dialogue between research and action. This is the objective of a round table, which will be open to the general public on June 21st, 2013 in Geneva. Prominent political and social figures will debate with scholars, under the guidance of journalist Esther Mamarbachi. Taking the example of family policies, participants will aim at targeting domains where new instruments are necessary to face the changing family structures and life courses. They will discuss the means to reach better knowledge transfer between researchers, policy makers and leaders of social organisations.

The round table on June 21st at Uni Mail – “How social sciences and society can meet? The building of family policy into question” – will gather several personalities representing the political sphere, the social domain or the academic community: Jean Blanchard, general secretary of the « Mouvement populaire des familles » (grassroots movement for family), Liliane Maury Pasquier, senator at the Swiss Council of States and vice-president of the Commission on Social Security and Public Health, Lucrezia Meier-Schatz, member of the Swiss National Council and director of Pro Familia, Sylvie Reverdin-Raffestin, director of Pro Juventute Geneva and president of the Cantonal Commission on Family, Walter Schmid, director of the Department of Social Work at the University of Applied Sciences Lucerne and president of the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare, and Dario Spini, professor of social psychology at the University of Lausanne and director of the NCCR LIVES.

Many researchers in social sciences will be present in the audience as this event will take place at the end of a two-day scientific conference on the topic of “Resources in Times of Vulnerability”. Esther Mamarbachi, who presents the Swiss TV programme “Infrarouge”, will moderate the round table. The organisers of the NCCR LIVES 2nd international conference are very much looking forward to the event. According to Floriane Demont, member of the scientific committee of the conference and equality officer within LIVES, “the interest of this round table is to be as much as possible in touch with the stakeholders’ concerns regarding family policies, to better understand their needs, in order for academic research to respond. We also aim at making LIVES competences known, so as to create links and to exchange on these questions.”

Innovative social policy measures

This is an important issue for the NCCR LIVES. For it got support from the Swiss National Science Foundation partly because of its ambition to enhance progress in the fight against vulnerability, by contributing to the development of innovative social policy measures. However, to do so, research results must reach the policy makers. Subjects of studies can also be inspired by the realities on the ground. Scholars should therefore create links with social actors working in the field. The way to implement this mix and match between research and action still has to be found.

The organisers of the LIVES conference thought the topic of family policy would be particularly pertinent in order to create bridges between research and action, as the family structures and life courses have changed a lot indeed during the past 30 years. This poses new challenges, for instance in the pursuit of work-life balance, or because of scarcity suffered by many families, notably single parent or immigrant households. Then arises the question of inventing new legislative and institutional instruments. Research can act as a source of proposals if new transmission channels are implemented to inspire studies and communicate results.

Bring the academic world closer to political leaders and the civil society in order to lay the foundations ofresearch that would be really useful to the people : Within the NCCR LIVES, the round table on June 21st could be a first step.

Researchers in the social sciences examine health research

Researchers in the social sciences examine health research

Members of the NCCR LIVES are involved in a symposium organized by the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences on June 14, 2013 at the University of Freiburg under the title: "Health Research. Perspectives in social sciences. "

The objectives of the conference are as follows:

  • Demonstrate the specific and innovative contribution made by the social sciences in the field of health research
  • Present and discuss the central concepts of dynamic health research oriented towards living quality and the structure of everyday life, including identification of their consequences and implications as well as associated methodological challenges
  • Develop new, forward-looking fields of research which have previously seen little study
  • Provide momentum for a research agenda creating new focal points and consolidation of expertise
  • Establish networks between participants spread across numerous disciplines and institutions
  • Help with the institutional integration of social science health research

The preparatory group is composed of Claudine Burton-Jeangros (University of Geneva, head of NCCR LIVES IP10), Céline Schmid-Botkine (FORS), Peter Farago (FORS, member of NCCR LIVES IP15), Dominique Joye (University of Lausanne, head of NCCR LIVES IP15), Mike Martin (University of Zurich), Julie Page (ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences), Martine Stoffel (SAGW, Bern), Markus Zürcher (SAGW, Bern).

The director of the NCCR LIVES, Dario Spini, will give a plenary lecture entitled "Vulnerability and resilience in life - knowledge and implications for research and practice," and the head of IP2, Claudio Bolzman, will participate in workshop II "Vulnerability and resilience in the life course".

Photo Reto Bürgin

Prof. Glen H. Elder, Jr.: "Studying Lives in Changing Times: a Life-Course Journey"

Distinguished by a doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Geneva, the famous life course specialist shared on April 18, 2013 with NCCR LIVES members and a broader public some key facts of his biography tinged with elements of the paradigm that he played a role in developing.

For those who were on another planet than the social sciences for the last 50 years, let us start by noting who Glen Elder is. Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of sociology and psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA), he is the author of Children of the Great Depression.

First published in 1974 and many times reprinted in enlarged editions, this book is a major reference for the life course paradigm. It shows how the economic and social crisis of 1929 in the United States differently affected children born in 1920-1921 and those of 1928-1929. Whereas the youngest cohort had a very tough start in life because of family responses to hardship including coping with scarcity and emotional strain, the oldest cohort was indeed too old to be as vulnerable to family strain and too young to encounter the problems that their parents experienced in the labor market.

Prof. Elder was invited on April 18, 2013 at the University of Geneva for a lecture in the series of public conferences on Vulnerability in the Life Course organized by the Institute for Population and Life Course Studies (IDEMO) and the National Center of Competence in Reseach LIVES. On this occasion, he received in person the doctorate Honoris Causa that the University of Geneva had awarded him last fall during the Dies Academicus. He then gave a talk about his career in relation to the evolving field of life course studies, as viewed in terms of the following paradigmatic principles:

"Linked lives"
Lives are lived interdependently, and relationships shape how individuals interpret life events.

Glen Elder’s mother was an English teacher, who gave him for a lifelong interest in biographies. His father moved from a medical profession to farming: Prof. Elder feels he owes him his sense of innovation.

"Timing of lives"
The impact of life transitions depends on when they occur.

The Elder family moved to the countryside when Glen was 14 years old. “Before that I was a city-kid.” He thus went the opposite way compared to the majority. Once a student in social psychology, he also worked as an orientation counselor for the university, which gave him the idea for his master thesis on “Transition to College”.

"Lives in time and place"
We are the product of a context.

Longitudinal studies started in the 30’s in the United States. When Glen Elder became a post-doctoral researcher in the 60’s, he joined a University of California team that was working on the data that made him famous. Much has happened since then. “Life course publications were less than 50 per year in 1992. They are now above 600 per year. (…) Some of the students we trained are now sitting on the review committees,” rejoices Prof. Elder. “You are in the golden days now. Data are available!”

"Life span development"
Human beings develop beyond childhood - biologically, socially, and psychologically.

“It took me a life to develop a full understanding of the life course.” “Study after study, I saw repetitions, recurrent things,“ which became the material for his theories.

"Human agency"
Humans are not passive but are able to make decisions that shape their lives.

“My boss in Berkeley was continuously fighting for funds to support longitudinal studies in Washington. As a result, I had room to be creative.” “I had to innovate to minimize cost of data collection.” Mixed method was the way: “Qualitative data in the archive enabled us to recode, which enabled us to address new questions.”

Today aged 79, Glen Elder says: “One of the most noted observations of my career is the centrality of resilience in difficult times. Vulnerability and inequality are a cumulative process, but there are always ways out.” The same concept applies to himself. Outside the lecture room, he confesses: "I became a widow after 45 years of happy marriage. Three years later I met Sandy, and she brought light back in my life. I would never have expected such a miracle."

LIVES international conference

"Resources in Times of Vulnerability: Multidisciplinary Perspectives", with lectures by seven international keynote speakers and six LIVES senior members, University of Geneva, June 20-21, 2013, followed by a round table with different stakeholders to discuss the relationship between research and building of social policies.

Marc Perrenoud on double bass, wit Howard S. Becker on piano (a great interactionist sociologist), during the symposium "Howard Becker and the worlds of art" in 2010 (International Cultural Center of Cerisy-la Salle, France)

"Ordinary musicians": a job category, which UNIL listens to

Marc Perrenoud, a senior lecturer, researcher at the NCCR LIVES, and two assistants are conducting a qualitative study of "workday" musicians in Switzerland: people who are more familiar with insecurity than fame, and who are in practice more artisans than artists.

In the musical pecking order, there are performers with top billing whose sounds people pay to listen to reverently. Then, below, there is a whole range of musicians people listen to randomly at a trendy bar or a festival, or to whom they lend just half an ear in a restaurant or on a street corner. "We do not listen in the same way to different types of musicians, depending on whether we consider them artists, partners in an event or just auxiliary staff in the background. This typology is much more significant to the musician's status than the type of music they play," explains Marc Perrenoud, sociologist and researcher for project No. 6 at the LIVES National Center of Competence in Research: "Vulnerability at the Interface of Professional and Family Life: Gender and Occupational Differentials".

Since September 2012, assisted by two students working on their master's degrees, Frédérique Leresche and Jérôme Chapuis, Marc Perrenoud has been doing research in (mainly French-speaking) Switzerland on the musicians who struggle to live off their talents. Between the three of them, they have already conducted about 50 semi-structured interviews with musicians of all styles, members of a semi-professional group, tea-dance entertainers and street players.

The researchers are musicians themselves

All three researchers have a strong connection to music and the musical scene: Marc Perrenoud himself plays double bass and electric bass; while doing his master's and doctorate in France, he played about 600 times in very different public contexts, from Manouche jazz groups, to bebop and funk, to electronic post-rock. "My interests as an ethnographer overlapped those as a musician while diversifying and expanding employment options, all of which became research fields," he says.

In Switzerland, initial findings show that most ordinary musicians have a job on the side, often as music teachers, and some benefit from subsidies for their performances, thanks to the creation of associations of which they become employees or beneficiaries. This situation contrasts with that in France, where ordinary musicians are entitled to the special unemployment allowances available for entertainment workers, or in the United States, where they often split their time between the musical scene and a job outside of music just to put food on the table. Music education doesn't have the same importance in these countries as it does in Switzerland, where 20 percent of the population plays an instrument, compared to an average of 8 percent elsewhere, thus offering an almost natural opportunity for music professionals.

To be or not to be a professional musician

Living entirely from their passion, performing a range of tasks that include teaching - does this make musicians more legitimate? "Some of them seem to think so. But they could also be seen as similar to sports or art teachers, whose profession is different from those of athletes or visual artists," says Perrenoud. "We're still defining the scope of our subject, a basic scientific attitude that is too often neglected. It is all the more necessary in our case, because we are starting without a predefined list, with no filter created by others, since it is still virgin territory," he says. "In any case, we're adopting an interactionist approach, by working in the field, and we define musicians as those whose peers say they are. In France, I noticed that ordinary musicians tend to portray themselves as artisans rather than as artists. This is mainly due to their relationship with musical creation. If you're unknown, you're more often hired to play cover versions than your own music. This tension between art and profession necessarily makes them "lower-level" artists. But in Switzerland, the situation might be different, because they are less exposed to the pressure of playing music sets just to put food on the table..."

A small-scale, fragmented scene

On the other hand, in Switzerland, the musical scene is small-scale and fragmented by cultural regionalism and local subsidies. "If you're known in Bulle, that doesn't mean you'll get a break in Biel. Whereas, in France it is possible to make a local musical career, because there are several large cities where ordinary musicians can play up to 100 times a year within a range of 200 kilometers, with a pool of one million inhabitants."

In several months, once this qualitative study is over, the researchers don't rule out taking a quantitative approach. "That's on the back burner," says Marc Perrenoud, already satisfied by being able to pursue his favorite research subject at LIVES: "We're following careers, which calls for a longitudinal perspective. As for the question of vulnerability, it's not only connected to the economic insecurity that ordinary musicians suffer. We also study it as a process of disaffiliation that can appear in any environment, even one that's economically favorable, as is the case in other IP6 studies of elites, for example. The basic question is why do some people do better than others, what resources are involved..." A well-known tune at LIVES.