Poverty Eradication and Participation: Between Claims and Realities

Poverty Eradication and Participation: Between Claims and Realities

On 28 June 2016 the School of Social Work at the University of Applied Scienc-es and Arts Northwestern Switzerland will host the 2nd Conference on Social Planning in Basel. Organized by members of the National Centre of Compe-tence in Research LIVES, this event is open to all researchers and practitioners interested in issues of poverty eradication and participation.

In current planning for poverty eradication and prevention both public and private institutions apply procedures which include people for whom the programmes and measures are intended.

The conference proposes to discuss the current status of participation in poverty eradication campaigns, asking the question whether, and if so with what kind of claims and procedures public institutions, welfare associations, social organizations from private industry as well as foundations as civil society groups adopt and implement the participation of people living in poverty in the planning of their programmes and services.

In the fight and prevention against poverty cooperation between agents from the state and civil society will also be a focal point for the conference. A key question in this context will be how decision makers in public institutions and non-government-organizations succeed in putting into place a coordinated and sustainable system of programmes and services.

Two acknowledged experts from Switzerland and abroad will give keynote speeches, followed by 6 workshops which will delve into aspects such as the work with concerned young adults, neighbourhoods or long-term employed.

Organizing Committee:

Further Information & Registration

>> www.tagung-sozialplanung.ch (in German)

Image iStock © Taweepat

LIVES Best Paper Award 2016 for Early Scholars: 2,000 Euros

In order to stimulate advances in the areas of vulnerability and life course studies, the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES encourages scholars at the beginning of their career to apply to the LIVES Best Paper Award 2016 for Early Scholars.

The award will be delivered during the next Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) conference in Bamberg, Germany, between 5 - 8 October 2016. In addition to the award, travelling expenses, conference and hotel fees (up to 3 nights) will be covered to join the event.

Participation Criteria

  • The paper must be empirical (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method) and make an important contribution to the domain of vulnerability and life course research. The study would preferably be longitudinal and/or interdisciplinary.
  • The paper must have been published (including online first) in English in a peer-reviewed journal in the year 2015.
  • To be eligible for the award, you must be the main contributor and have received your PhD (graduation date) after January 1st, 2009. 

Application deadline

You can apply to the award until July 31th, 2016, by submitting your contact details, a short paragraph (100 words max) explaining why you think your paper deserves to win, and the pdf of your paper in the format of the journal which published it.

>> Please click here to apply

Photo iStock © Aldo Murillo

Climbing the social ladder is as difficult nowadays as it was several decades ago

A study by Julie Falcon, published in the journal Social Change in Switzerland, shows that social mobility in Switzerland was not notably improved in the 20th century by the democratisation of education and the tertiarisation of the economy.

Switzerland's profile may have changed dramatically over the century, but the chances of reaching a better social position than one's parents did not change significantly. Only people born between 1908 and 1934 moved up the social hierarchy in greater numbers. The rate of social mobility for the generations that followed did not change. 40% of people born between 1935 and 1978 experienced upward social mobility compared with their fathers; 40% stayed in the same socio-professional category; and 20% suffered from a less advantageous social position.

To reach this conclusion, Julie Falcon, a researcher at the University of Lausanne, combined and analysed data from 21 surveys, compiling more than 17,000 observations. The social categories are divided into three groups: the upper middle class, which includes company managers, engineers, liberal and white-collar professionals, and teachers; the intermediary category, which consists of such occupations as shop owners, tradesmen, and farmers; the lower category, which groups less-qualified occupations, mainly sales and service assistants, and blue-collar workers.

Although four out of ten people succeeded in moving up the social scale, the rate did not increase over the decades, surprisingly. Does that mean that the impact of social class is just as strong as ever?

The researcher observed that the tertiarisation of the economy did create new opportunities for improved social mobility, due to the increase in managerial occupations. However, the level of education necessary for the more prestigious professions also increased. And social background still has considerable influence on access to education, with the middle and upper classes still overrepresented in the more demanding subjects. She also demonstrates that, "Qualifications alone do not guarantee improved social standing. Where there is an equivalent level of education, social background continues to have a strong influence on the chances of achieving better social status".

Julie Falcon concludes that, "During the 20th century in Switzerland, inequality between social classes neither decreased nor disappeared, but in fact remained the same".

>> Julie Falcon (2016). Mobilité sociale au 20e siècle en Suisse : entre démocratisation de la formation et reproduction des inégalités de classe / Soziale Mobilität in der Schweiz im 20. Jahrhundert: zwischen Demokratisierung der Bildung und Fortbestand der Klassenungleichheiten. [Social mobility in the 20th century in Switzerland: between democratisation of education and the reproduction of social inequality]. Social Change in Switzerland No 5. Retrieved from www.socialchangeswitzerland.ch

Contact : Julie Falcon, +41 21 692 37 89, julie.falcon@unil.ch

The series Social Change in Switzerland documents the evolution of Switzerland’s social structure. It is edited by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, the Life Course and Inequalities Research Centre of the University of Lausanne LINES , and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES). The aim is to monitor change in employment, family, income, mobility, voting, or gender in Switzerland. Based on cutting edge empirical research, the series targets a wider audience than just academic experts.

Photo © Annick Ramp / Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography / NCCR LIVES

Showing and discussing vulnerability in Switzerland is also looking at overcoming it

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES supported the work of three young photographers for six months. Their pictures will be displayed at the upcoming Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography from 29 April to 22 May 2016. A publication entitled Downs and Ups. Visual Insights into Vulnerability and Resilience during the Life Course gathers some of these pictures and, over three chapters, describes the issues at the heart of life course research. The festival will also be hosting a round table event on 13 May at the Biel Congress Centre on "In/Visibility: Vulnerability in Switzerland – a non-issue or a real taboo?"

In mid-2015 three young women won an invitation-based competition launched by the NCCR LIVES and the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography. They had been asked to propose a project based on the concepts of vulnerability and resilience. The artists then had from July to December to create their images. The adventure is now reaching its climax with the exhibition of these three series at the festival, which opens on 29 April. But the adventure will not really end after the exhibition closes on 22 May, because a book is being released containing a selection of these photographs accompanied by texts that explain to the general public what the scientific approach is to life course research.

The photography projects

Simone Haug worked with retired acrobats – former nomads who had had to resort to a sedentary lifestyle, artists who had reverted to total anonymity, former gymnasts who had to cope with a failing body. In the publication Downs and Ups, this presents an opportunity for Prof. Laura Bernardi to explain how the many threads that weave our lives are interconnected and able to cause stress or, on the contrary, provide compensatory resources. Familial, professional, residential and health paths overlap and sometimes conflict, but they can also be sources of solutions with respect to each other. The safety net is not always where you expect it.

Delphine Schacher engaged with the residents of the Bois des Frères, a complex of wooden huts just outside Geneva, awakening the childhood memories of Prof. Dario Spini. The son of immigrants and now Director of NCCR LIVES, he contemplates through the eyes of an adult and a researcher the different levels at which these life courses have an impact – an observation starting from the physical body and ending with the social norms that govern us all. Precariousness, marginality, resourcefulness and hope collide in the both harsh and fraternal environment of the subjects of the photographs, and in the professor's analysis.

Annick Ramp accompanied a transgender person, Sandra, aiming to show the inherited strengths and weaknesses of an out-of-the-ordinary destiny, marked by suffering, struggles, and victories. The book provides an opportunity to understand the importance of observing life courses over time. There is a focus on the accumulation of disadvantages and on how individuals construct their own narrative, thus forging their identity on the basis of critical steps and transitions.

Stress and resources

Life course research is not familiar to the general public. In Switzerland it enjoys the support of the government, which has established a National Centre of Competence in Research funded for twelve years by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Since 2011 this has allowed roughly 150 researchers in the social sciences from a dozen universities and higher education institutions to conduct several longitudinal studies focusing on vulnerability, defined as a lack of resources (which can be psychological, physiological, social, economic, cultural and institutional) in the face of stressful events or phases in life (divorce, unemployment, migration, ageing, bereavement, etc.).

From this perspective, anyone can be affected by vulnerability at some point in their life. And as it is a dynamic phenomenon, it is not possible to conceive of vulnerability without its counterpart, resilience, whose origins need to be understood. Indeed, the study of life courses shows that while individuals are marked by their social and historical context, they also enjoy a certain capacity to act (what we call “agency”) and never stop developing throughout their lives.

Reaching the wider public

Part of the funding for NCCR LIVES is also intended for projects aiming to transfer knowledge to the general public, hence this collaboration with the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography. The objective is first and foremost to use a language accessible to all – images – to address key issues that are often overlooked. Offering a platform for young photographers is another motivation for our research centre, which has already published several scientific articles focused on atypical occupations or the professional integration of young people.

As well as the three displays and the book, there will be a round table event on 13 May at the Biel Congress Centre. The issue of the visibility or invisibility of vulnerability in Switzerland will be discussed, with the aim of allowing debate with the public. Is vulnerability shown too much or not enough? Where can it be found? How can it be dealt with? Hosted by journalist Dominique Antenen, the event will bring together Felix Bühlmann, a sociologist at NCCR LIVES, Jérôme Cosandey, from Avenir Suisse, Eric Fehr, Mayor of Biel, Thérèse Frösch, co-president of the Swiss Conference of Social Action Institutions, and Delphine Schacher, photographer.

In a town at the crossroads of French and German cultures, with one of the highest rates of social assistance in Switzerland, this series of events in Biel promises an interesting national debate.

>> Exhibitions: Simone Haug: Acrobates !. Delphine Schacher: Bois des Frères. Annick Ramp: Sandra - Ich bin eben doch eine Frau. From 29 April to 22 May 2016, PhotoforumPasquArt, Biel.

>> Hélène Joye-Cagnard and Emmanuelle Marendaz Colle (eds.) (2016). Downs and Ups. Visual Insights into Vulnerability and Resilience during the Life Course. Ghent: Snoeck Publishers. 108 p. (trilingual FR/DE/EN). To order: office@jouph.ch

>> Round table In/Visibility: Vulnerability in Switzerland – a non-issue or a real taboo? 13 May at 6.15pm, Biel Conference Centre (simultaneous interpretation French/German).

>> Tour: Life courses by Dario Spini, Director of NCCR LIVES. Guided tour of exhibitions by Simone Haug, Annick Ramp and Delphine Schacher, 14 May from 4pm to 5.30pm.

>> Full programme of the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography available at http://www.bielerfototage.ch/en

© Simone Haug: self-portrait

Simone Haug: "I am fascinated by the potential for surrealism in the real"

The Bernese photographer undertook a task of great precision with five retired circus artists to illustrate vulnerability and resilience, the themes of the collaborative project between the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography. Her poetic images feature in an exhibition and a book soon to be released.

Simone Haug resembles her photographs: subtle and delicate. She seems to brush over things, but also identifies and underlines them with a rare exactitude, highlighted by a playful vision. Her latest work, entitled Acrobates!, will be exhibited at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography from 29 April to 22 May 2016. The project is part of a mandate given by the NCCR LIVES and will also feature in the book, Downs and Ups, coinciding with the exhibition.

Simone chose the town of Biel as her home: "I have always loved the relaxed atmosphere. When I was still at school in Bern, I used to secretly take the train to Biel and sit in a coffee shop near the station. It's a town with possibilities, with a sincere spirit. It's warm and open. I feel that very strongly when I walk around here – there is an everyday culture. Even the supermarket cashiers are different in Biel. In Bern there are more labels, the weight of an official culture. Here things are more informal and direct."

So of course she is already familiar with the photography festival organised in Biel every year for the last 20 years. She has even already exhibited her works at the festival, with a friend in 2006: a series entitled Asile entre lieux et temps [Asylum between times and places]. But she is still a long way from considering herself an established photographer. Yet the 35-year-old confirms that things are getting better and better, with orders coming in. She also does interview transcriptions for sociologists – a task she appreciates: "I don't have to analyse, but it stimulates me," she explains.

Her photography project about retired circus artists shows five characters, including a couple, who she approached individually during the second half of 2015. She captures a great skilfulness and fragility, but also the force of these seniors with their heads still in the stars despite their diminished physical condition. Meet the author of these original and sensitive images.

How did you get into photography?

I have always liked to watch. Images figured prominently in my family. So photography seemed to be the ideal tool for producing images. I was quite young when I learnt to use a camera. It has become a sort of compass for me, for discovering the world and my environment. From my teens, it absorbed me more and more. I joined a group of autodidacts created in Zurich in the 80s. We invited experienced photographers, but self-organisation was the basic principle. Then I studied sociology, but what I really wanted to do was take photos. So I decided to take that direction, and went to the Hamburg fine arts university. I didn't want to go to a school purely for photography. I wanted to avoid being conditioned. I love being free, and I thought it was better to nourish my development differently.

What remains from your sociology studies?

I think sometimes it influences me subconsciously. It taught me to consider several points of view, and gave me a theoretical base. But the assertions bother me in that discipline. It's the same in photography: I refuse anything that categorises. I don't consider myself a creator of documentaries who proposes a definite message. What I like about sociology is the subject matter, not the methods. So I tried to stay away from them.

What is a good photo in your opinion?

For me, it's an image with a lot of freedom. It gives just enough information about the context, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I prefer the mix and balance between the abstract on one hand; and on the other hand, the minimum necessary number of concrete points of reference. I am fascinated by the potential for surrealism in the real. And I find that photography really makes it possible to portray that. What's more, being a photographer makes it possible for me to share things with people, and give something back, a sort of acknowledgement. That contributes to my interest in images too. For example, I'm impressed by the series by Iren Stehli, Libuna, which followed a woman throughout her whole life. That's one of the strengths of photography: it captures the dimension of passing time.

How did you work on this project about retired acrobats?

I have always been fascinated by the circus – a world of illusions where physical limits are constantly surpassed. But it was the invitation to bid by LIVES and the Biel Festival of Photography which gave me the idea to contact former acrobats. I love venturing into new worlds and meeting people. I don't usually stage my photos. But the artists are used to the stage. I wanted to work with them, do something together. When talking with them, staging the scenes came naturally. We didn't have a lot of time, but I am glad to have found a form which suited people in their situation. I like the mysteriousness of these pictures. It shows what circus artists like to do: create mystery for the audience. And I used black and white for several photos to make them more abstract. Being less realistic, it provokes the imagination. I also find that black and white underlines the notion of equilibrium which is integral to the subject.

How would you describe the resilience in your characters?

I see resilience in their everyday attitude. The professional life of a circus artist is uncompromising. Even retired, they are still acrobats in their minds. It shows, for example, when changing a light bulb. Not many retired wives climb onto their husband's shoulder for that! They are always wanting to play, to be on stage. The five people I met are all at peace with their former profession. Each of them had done what they could. They agreed on the fact that it was important to find the right time to stop. Each story is different, but they had all faced difficulties and found the strength to overcome different situations.

What are you most proud of in this project about the acrobats?

Of the projection, which will be shown in the exhibition during the Festival: I like the idea of creating a little show. It is a montage of photographs that are underlined by the sound of a Japanese drum. It's the first time I have exhibited this type of process. I had already used it for another project, but I had never shown it.

>> Simone Haug's page on the festival website

© Delphine Schacher: self-portrait

Delphine Schacher: "Accessing to invisible places" through photography

The photographer from Vaud presents her series Bois des Frères [Brothers' Wood], about the inhabitants of the former seasonal workers' huts in the Geneva suburb in a twofold project – an exhibition and a book; a collaborative project with the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography.

Delphine Schacher's house, nestled in a valley just outside Begnins and adjoining the family sawmill, belonged to her grandparents. The photographer, born in 1981, has her roots in the region. This is where she took her first pictures, before even graduating from the Vevey School of photography. As one of the three prize-winners of the invitation-based competition launched by the NCCR LIVES with the theme "Vulnerability and Resilience", her photographs will be exhibited from 29 April to 22 May 2016 at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography. The photos also illustrate the book Downs and Ups associated with the project.

Delphine Schacher first received recognition for her work entitled Petite Robe de Fête [Little Party Dress], which portrayed young Romanian teenage girls in their Sunday best in a pastoral setting. It was a journey back in time – defying time too, as initially she went looking for people photographed by her father 20 years before, on a trip marking the twinning of their town with a Romanian village. "It was the first time my father travelled so far, and the first time I saw him cry. He was so moved by the people and their difficult living conditions," she tells. She, who ironically describes herself as "a modern-day explorer from the easyJet generation, hopping on an off planes so easily".

For the Biel LIVES project, she took her camera to the huts previously used to lodge seasonal workers, close to the Lignon housing estate, near the Cointrin airport. This precarious and dilapidated housing is still in use today. Now it is home to men with varying life stories. She spent time getting close to these men, and magnified their modesty and dignity. Interview.

How did you get into photography?

It all started when I was about 20. I am one of three children, and I was the only one without an artistic activity. My brother played the drums and my sister played the flute. As for me, I spent my teenage years partying while studying for an apprenticeship in business and a vocational Matura. But I didn't imagine I would do that all my life. I was looking for something more creative. So I started taking evening courses, first in sewing, then graphic design. But I wasn't convinced. Then I realised I liked collecting photos from newspapers. So I enrolled in a photography course in the area, and I was hooked immediately. We had to do photo reports. I enjoyed meeting people and entering places which would have been inaccessible without the photography alibi. The theme for my first report and exhibition for the course was "A night in the life of...". I chose to follow an employee who worked on a rotary press at the newspaper, Journal de la Côte. I loved feeling out of my element, that I had to make my own way. What's more, the press operator liked the photos and was pleased. So I continued in that direction and registered with the Focale club, which organises workshops. I had two months to work on the theme of "Shadows". Thanks to a socio-cultural worker who had set up a photo lab in the Lonay prison, I was able to follow jailed women. And there again I enjoyed accessing to invisible places.

Where did the inspiration for the Lignon huts idea come from?

It's a subject that I've had in mind for a long time. In 2010 I had to work on a project with the theme "Periphery" for Focale. I remembered having seen a television report about the workers' huts at the airport being destroyed. So I called the Unia union to find out if there were any remaining. That's when I found out about the Lignon site. Then, when I was studying photography at Vevey, I went back there. The place hadn't changed, but I felt like I'd worked too hastily, that I had missed the heart of the subject. I had taken a few portraits but I hadn't talked with the people. This time I was able to go into their homes. I took a step closer to them, not only physically, but emotionally. I dared to go further, looking for postures. I thought more carefully about how to create a scene. It helped that I had a mandate, that there were expectations. The theme "Vulnerability and Resilience" also guided my choices. I wanted to portray the men living in those huts – pay tribute to them. They aren't just people passing through.

How did you go about it?

I spent July and August 2015 observing. In some cases, I had already met them before. Then from September to December, I went on-site two to three times each week, sometimes during the day, sometimes in the evening. I didn't always take photos. Sometimes I just spent time with them. I wanted to feel the seasons passing, but I didn't want it to be clear which year it was. I prefer when it's not clear whether the photos were taken in the 70s, or the 90s, or now. That's why I avoided showing clothes with brands or shopping bags. The place is ageless! I also tried to give a pictorial theme to some of the images, certain attitudes... I shot 25 rolls of analogue film. It's a technique which makes you take your time, arrange things.

What's a good photo in your opinion?

First of all, the light has to be natural. There has to be something going on, something mysterious or disturbing: for example, a strange object, or a fragile position.

Which of the images do you think shows the most resilience?

I like the photo with the sausage grill in the shared kitchen. It shows people making do, managing with little room. They live like everyone else, but in a smaller space. And there is the portrait, taken in an instant, of Augusto in his snappy clothes with his frying pan. It's the image of a man who has bounced back. It seems to say, "I don't have a kitchen, but that doesn't stop me living a normal life and wearing a smart shirt." These people live with the bare minimum, but they are not despairing. That said, this is clearly not an objective description. I didn't see everyone, and some didn't want to be photographed. Perhaps it's much harder for them. But there are also beautiful examples of resilience. Such as José who is from Cap-Vert: he is one of my favourites – one of the first people I talked with in 2010. He barely spoke French then, and now he's found a job. He is manager in a scaffolding company. Scaffolding is his passion – a whole world. He showed me photos on his phone. I can tell you, since then I haven't seen scaffolding in the same way! Finally, there are those pictures featuring cats and caged birds. That may suggest confinement in confinement. But it also shows that people need someone to look after...

>> Delphine Schacher's page on the festival website

© Annick Ramp: self-portrait

Annick Ramp: “I hope that with my work on Sandra people can feel empathy”

For the bid on the topic “Vulnerability and Resilience”, the youngest winner of the LIVES photography grant, who is based in Zurich, produced portraits of a transgender person: Sandra. Her collection will be shown at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography and a selection of these images will be published in a book.

Among the three female photographers who participated in the project of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography, Annick Ramp is the only one who has not yet reached the age of 30. But despite her young age, her career as a photographer is already well established. She will take one more step by exhibiting her portraits of Sandra, a transgender person, during the 20th edition of the festival between April 29 and May 22, 2016. Some of these pictures are also included in the book Downs and Ups.

Annick Ramp works as a photographer for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on a half-time basis, which she finds is a good balance allowing her to pursue more personal in-depth works. She lives in a popular district west of Zurich main station, a place she appreciates for its multicultural and relaxed atmosphere.

Her project on Sandra was selected to illustrate vulnerability and resilience because she has a real talent for approaching bodies and souls in an infinitely respectful way. Her photos depict a joyful person with also darker aspects, a complex figure who despite the lifelong struggles which have left their imprints has succeeded in overcoming a lot of suffering. We met Annick Ramp for some insights on her approach.

How did you come to photography?

After school I did a commercial apprenticeship but quickly realised that this would not make me happy. I knew that I would like to do something with photography but did not know how to proceed. My father was the one who got me in touch with photography at the first time. Then, when I was 19, I travelled to New Zealand. My parents lived there for 5 years and I was born in Auckland, but they left when I was 8 months old. So I wanted to see the place, meet the people, and this is where I started to take photos. I focused on lines, landscapes, not many people. Back in Switzerland I enrolled in a pre-course in art and later I left Schaffhausen for Zurich, where I knew I wanted to live. For one year I studied different kinds of art and visual communication. After that I enrolled for the degree course “Fotodesign” in Zurich. At this point I had the opportunity to get a one-year internship with a photographer, and there I figured out what really interests me, which is the kind of photography I do now, which is people oriented. After finishing my studies I got another internship with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, where I completed my training and eventually was lucky to be hired.

What are you looking for when photographing people?

I like showing different kinds of people, different ideas of life. During my first internship I took pictures of an eccentric man who is quite famous in Schaffhausen, named Heinz Möckli. For two months I stuck to him, and realised that this was not only a job for me. It also gives me something back. I love watching how human beings live in their environment and the multiple ways they have of seeing that environment. I am particularly interested in those people who do not live the regular way.

How did you meet Sandra?

For the final work of my studies I covered a specialised institution, which supports people who are partially or temporarily not able to live independently due to addiction problems, mental illnesses or other impairments. One evening Sandra was there, and I saw her again later at the bus station. I found her fascinating. She looked fragile and strong at the same time. I could see that she had good self-esteem. We talked, she sang. She looked female but there was also something masculine. She spoke openly about it, but she refused to pose for a photo. After that I always had her in mind. I tried to get in touch with her through Facebook, but she did not write back. I tried again through her music bandleader, and he suggested joining a rehearsal session on Thursdays. I went there and she remembered me. Then I proposed to take portraits of her and she accepted. It went this way for two or three months, but I did not know in which way I would bring her story together. And then the LIVES’ and Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography’s invitation arrived. The concept was there!

What do you think is the photo, in this collection, which exemplifies most the theme of resilience?

The one with the fog: it was not staged at all. We were in a theatre rehearsal and there was this machine that creates smoke, and I caught her next to it. Sometimes she’s loosing herself and escapes reality. She escapes to some other place, dreaming, eyes closed. This picture made me realise there is something to show about her, and also that it needs time to approach it.

How did you proceed with Sandra for this work?

I could not force anything. I never told her “You should do this or that”. We hung out for days and I had to catch the right moments. The most difficult thing for me, afterwards, was not so much to make choices, but to reduce to the very best pictures and make order out of them. It fascinates me to put a collection of photos together. It’s really intense. I can spend weeks moving scattered pictures on the floor until I decide which one is really necessary or not, which ones express the right view. It is also a question of respect for my subjects. I showed my selection to Sandra and she accepted to be seen also during the bad moments. She is completely aware of her story and she is conscious that she is not always in the best possible mood. It was important for me that she accepts and understands my choices, but did not let her influence me too much either. I hope that with my work on Sandra people can feel empathy. I find it weird that this society has this strange order of male versus female aspects.

What is a good image, in your sense?

First of all it has to touch me in some way. I appreciate if I can figure out that the photographer has done it with empathy, that the subject is not being used just for the sake of a good picture. I like photos that have something to say, which provoke emotions and also contain some poetry. I tend to look at photography in series, because often I find it difficult to understand something just with one picture. I think there can be more differentiated statements if pictures correspond with each other.

>> Annick Ramp's page on the Festival website

Image iStock © ra-photos

LIVES international conference - Relationships in later life: Challenges and opportunities

The conference will take place on June 28-29, 2016 at the University of Bern. Featuring ten invited talks including five keynote speeches and five lectures from NCCR LIVES researchers, it is structured around two main topics: "Patterns of adaptation to interpersonal loss in later life and their determinants" and "Interventions and preventive measures addressing loneliness or bereavement as well as the promotion of positive relationships in later life". There will also be two poster sessions. Deadline for submissions is June 6.


  • Self-Concept regulation and resilience to interpersonal loss
    > Prof. Dr. Anthony MANCINI, Pace University (NY)
  • Adaptation to bereavement in late life
    > Prof. Dr Margret STROEBE, University of Utrecht
  • Making connections: loneliness interventions in later life
    > Prof. Dr. Nan STEVENS, VU University Amsterdam; Radboud University, Nijmegen
  • Social network compensation in later life: resourcefulness, resilience, and constraints
    > Prof. Dr. Karen ROOK, University of California Irvine
  • Resilience research, resilience promotion, and the role of flexibility
    > Prof. Dr. George BONANNO, Columbia University (NY)

Presentation of the conference

Close relationships are crucial for well-being in later life. Social support and companionship contribute to life satisfaction, positive affect and health and reduce the adverse effects of stress. In contrast, poor relationship quality and ambivalence represent risk factors, for couples as well as individuals sharing other close ties, such as adult children and their parents. Breakup of an intimate partnership through bereavement or divorce is frequent in later life and is one of the most stressful life events. This can pose a significant challenge to psychological well-being, particularly in a stage of life, when social and physical resources are declining. Nevertheless, older adults differ considerably in their patterns of adaptation and how well they cope with the loss of a partner.

The general goal of this conference is to combine vulnerability and resilience-oriented research lines with intervention studies in order to analyse what facilitates or hinders successful regulation of interpersonal loss and relationship challenges in later life. The conference is structured around two main topics: 1) Patterns of adaptation to interpersonal loss in later life and their determinants; and 2) interventions and preventive measures addressing loneliness or bereavement as well as the promotion of positive relationships in later life.

The conference will feature 10 invited talks of about 45 or 30 minutes + 15 minutes of discussion and a round table discussion. Four sessions will cover the following topics:

1. Patterns of adaptation to divorce and bereavement

This session examines different patterns of psychological adaptation after divorce and bereavement. Both, bereavement as an age-normative life-event and marital breakup as a less frequent event “intentionally initiated” transition require psychosocial adaptation. The large inter-individual differences in this adaptation process are still not well understood.

Prof. Dr. Anthony Mancini (Pace University, NY) will focus on resilience as the most frequent pattern of adaptation to interpersonal loss and highlight intra- and interpersonal resources that predict resilience. He proposes that interpersonal losses are fundamentally a threat to the self. This will be explored related to cross-cultural findings, emotion regulation of loss-related affect, autobiographical memory and loss appraisals.

Prof. Dr. Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello (University of Bern) will address the new social phenomenon of divorce in Swiss older adults. She will present recent longitudinal findings on adaptation patterns and factors that account for recovery or chronicity such as intrapersonal resources or relationship variables.

2. Coping with interpersonal loss

Based on a theoretical background on coping with interpersonal loss, this session gives an overview of ways, how older people try to cope with interpersonal loss or bereavement. Adaptive ways of coping will be investigated.

Prof. Dr. Margret Stroebe (University of Utrecht) will examine main findings on coping with bereavement in general and specific to later life. Results will be considered through the perspective of the Dual Process Model of Coping and potential extensions of the model as well as a broader perspective of an integrative risk factor framework will be presented.

Prof. Dr. Michel Oris (University of Geneva) will present how friendships among the elderly have evolved over thirty years and how friendships relate to family relationships. He will examine whether presence of friends contribute to the coping process and subjective well-being in the case of accidents, hospitalisations, bereavement or frailty.

Prof. Dr. Daniela Jopp (University of Lausanne) will draw on two centenarian studies to elaborate on the relationship between very old parents and their advanced age children. She will describe the unique challenges of centenarian and their social support network and examine factors that could protect from loneliness and poor well-being at this very advanced age.

3. Interventions for loneliness and complicated grief after divorce or bereavement

One of the most frequently reported consequences of interpersonal loss are feelings of loneliness which are very frequent in older people. Loneliness contributes to persistent psychosocial problems and poorer health behaviour that effects physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.

Prof. Dr. Nan Stevens (VU University Amsterdam; Radboud University, Nijmegen) will present several effective interventions to reduce loneliness in old age including a widow(er)-to widow(er) visiting program to promote successful adaptation by providing companionship, information and a role model as well as an intervention offering training and means to engage in social contracts digitally.

A smaller group of divorced or bereaved individuals struggle in their adaptation to interpersonal loss or even develop psychological disorders such as depression or complicated grief, which need to be diagnosed and treated.

Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Znoj (University of Bern) will give an overview of grief reactions on the background of a schema-based inconsistency model. He will focus on mechanisms how grief becomes a prolonged grief disorder and present psychotherapeutic interventions as well as a guided internet-based self-help intervention addressing grief symptoms in later life.

4. Promoting well-being and resilience in later life

The last session aims at integrating resource and vulnerability focused lines of research on social relationships and addresses possibilities to foster resilience and well-being in old age.

Prof. Dr. Karen Rook (University of California Irvine) will address the question how older adults seek to reorganise their social lives after an interpersonal loss. She will examine to what extend and how alternative sources of social support and companionship can compensate for the loss of a key social relationship and what other compensatory processes may help to preserve older adult’s resourcefulness and resilience.

Prof. Dr. Eric Widmer (University of Geneva) will explore the associations between quality of life, social support and conflict structures in family networks of the elderly, also addressing the impact of negative and ambivalent family relationships. The importance of conflicts for adjustment to old age will be discussed.

Prof. Dr. George Bonanno (Columbia University, NY) will finally present a general overview of resilience research and discuss the question of why people are resilient. One focus will be on the construct of regulatory flexibility as both a predictor of resilient outcomes and a possible avenue to help people become more resilient.

>> Call for abstracts for poster presentations

Practical information

  • Registration deadline is June 20, 2016.
  • The conference will be held during two days, Tuesday, 28th and Wednesday, 29th June 2016 at the University of Bern, Switzerland.
  • The venue is UniS, close to the railway station.
  • Coffee and lunch breaks, poster sessions as well as two wine receptions will offer plenty of opportunities for informal networking.
  • Participants who do not belong to the NCCR LIVES and/or the Department of Psychology of the University of Bern shall pay a small fee of 150 CHF for conference attendance including catering (students, alumni of NCCR LIVES and the University of Bern, one-day participants, and members of SWIPPA shall only pay 80 CHF).
  • Everyone is kindly asked to register online (see below), as the number of participants is limited.
  • Conference participants can get reduced prices at the Sorel Hotel Ador (single room for CHF 150). For other accommodations, please refer to the Bern Tourism Office's hotel list.

Organising and scientific committee

Contacts: lives@psy.unibe.ch


Deadline: June 6, 2016


Deadline: June 20, 2016

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

A young "LIVES" author wins award for a paper on single parenthood and health

Emanuela Struffolino is the 2015 winner of the Population Young Author Prize. The journal is edited by the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). The series LIVES Working Papers had published a first version of her article last year.

INED and the journal Population announced on February 29, 2016 that the Population Young Author Prize has been awarded to Emanuela Struffolino for her paper "Self-reported health among lone mothers: Do employment and education matter?", written in collaboration with Laura Bernardi and Marieke Voorpostel. This award was recently created in tribute to Valeria Solesin, a PhD student at Université Paris 1 and hosted at INED, who died at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during the terrorist attacks of 13 November  2015.


Lone mothers are more likely to be unemployed and in poverty, which are both factors associated with a risk of poor health. In Switzerland, weak work-family reconciliation policies and taxation that favours married couples adopting the traditional male breadwinner model translate into low labour market participation rate for mothers.

In the case of lone mothers, employment can be associated with better health because it eases the potential economic hardship associated with being the sole earner. However, working can represent an additional stress factor due to lone mothers’ responsibility as the main caregiver. We investigate how family arrangements and employment status are associated with self-reported health in Switzerland.

Our analyses on the Swiss Household Panel (waves 1999-2011) suggest that lone mothers who are out of the labour market have a higher probability of reporting poor health, especially if holding an upper-secondary diploma. Lone mothers reported being in better health when working full-time vs. part-time, whereas the opposite applied to mothers living with a partner.


>> Struffolino, E., Bernardi, L., & Voorpostel, M.. (2016). Self-reported Health among Lone Mothers in Switzerland: Do Employment and Education Matter? Population-E, 71 (2), 187-214

A first version of the article had been published in 2015 by the LIVES Working Papers:

>> Struffolino, E., Bernardi, L., & Voorpostel, M.. (2015). Self-reported health among lone mothers: Do employment and education matter?. LIVES Working Papers, 2015(44), 1-28.

Image iStock © AtnoYdur

Strong partnerships: an important resource for coping with the effects of cancer

The partners of women suffering from breast cancer show considerable signs of distress, but the more satisfied men are with their relationship, the less heavy their burden seems. What is more, a happy marriage reduces the likelihood that women will suffer from changes to their body image. And although two-thirds of couples report that the illness has changed their sex life, more than half remain sexually active, while others talk of "increased tenderness". These are the main conclusions of a doctoral thesis by Sarah Cairo Notari, which was brilliantly defended on 25 January 2016 at the University of Geneva. The thesis has also inspired several other scientific publications.

Women are not the only victims of breast cancer. Every year in Switzerland there are around 6,000 new cases and it leads to more than 1,000 deaths. But, as with all potentially fatal diseases, it also affects the sufferer’s family and friends – and especially her partner. However, the partner’s feelings are rarely the subject of much attention. In order to understand how this disease affects couples, the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES funded a study in 2011. Longitudinal data were gathered from 80 women undergoing treatment at Lausanne University Hospital, plus 55 of their male partners. Sarah Cairo Notari, an assistant at the unit for the clinical psychology of interpersonal relationships at the University of Geneva, analysed the data as part of her PhD research in psychology, L’ajustement psychologique de la femme et de son partenaire au cancer du sein (The psychological adjustment of women and their partners to breast cancer).

Psychological distress in men

First of all, Cairo Notari carried out a systematic review of the scientific literature on psychological distress in the partners of women affected by breast cancer. There had not been a lot of research in this field so far. Her summary of 23 selected articles shows that the level of distress experienced by these men is higher than that of the general population. However, "contrary to what is generally believed in this area, the partners do not report higher levels of psychological distress than the patients do," she points out.

The subjective burden of the "partner-carer"

When women have breast cancer, their partner often becomes their main carer within the family, taking on a whole range of tasks including providing practical help and emotional support, looking after the children and running the household. The study showed that the perceived weight of this burden is closely linked to the patient’s physical and psychological condition, and that it declines over time and as the disease goes into remission. But above all, Cairo Notari was able to demonstrate that the higher the level of marital satisfaction, the lighter this burden seems to men, regardless of their partner’s condition. These results will soon be presented in the Journal of Health Psychology.

Changes to the woman's body image

Marital satisfaction can also play an important and lasting role in protecting patients against changes to their body image. The study showed that women who have had a mastectomy and/or chemotherapy have fewer problems with their appearance if they are part of what is considered a positive partnership. This tendency was observable at various points during the study, whether it was two weeks, three months or one year since the participants had undergone surgery. Cairo Notari also noted that women who were cohabiting but unmarried reported a more significant change in their body image than married women did. Her conclusions suggest that "marital satisfaction and the fact of being married can mitigate the impact of treatment, reducing the extent to which women’s body image changes."

Changes to sexual function

The study also looked at couples’ sexual function, given that an intimate relationship is recognised as an important aspect of quality of life. For this part of the study, a semi-structured interview was conducted by a nurse and member of the team with 75 participants during a meeting two weeks after their surgery. It was carried out in addition to the first written questionnaire. The quantitative data suggest that for 64% of the women questioned, their illness and treatment had changed their sexual relations. However, 53% of the patients said that they maintained an active sex life, with or without changes. But for 29% of the patients, sexual relations had stopped completely. The qualitative data made it possible to demonstrate that the cease in sexual activity was not linked to marital difficulties: for 40% of the women who had become sexually inactive following surgery, sexual relations had even been replaced with an "increased feeling of intimacy and closeness", or a "strengthening of emotional bonds".

The partnership as a victim AND a resource

 The disease clearly has a negative impact on partnerships. This is evident from the distress felt by both partners, the woman’s physical and psychological suffering, the subjective burden that the man has to bear and the changes to the couple’s sex life. But Cairo Notari points out that the partnership is not a powerless victim. In the conclusion to her thesis she writes, "The role of the couple’s relationship as a source of strength is without doubt the most significant aspect that we were able to bring to light in this study." She adds that these results have "confirmed that a satisfying relationship plays a role in protecting women and their partners who are dealing with breast cancer." She therefore suggests that it is important to "look after the health of the relationship as well as the woman’s health", although she recognises that the complex nature of marital satisfaction makes it difficult to carry out preventive clinical interventions.

Next steps

This thesis, which was supervised by Professor Nicolas Favez, will soon be followed by further publications on the subject. A fourth set of data, gathered two years after diagnosis of the illness, still needs to be analysed. In addition, French and Belgian teams are interested in sharing their respective research with the Swiss team.

Speaking at Cairo Notari’s public defence of the thesis, Friedrich Stiefel, a professor at Lausanne University and head of the psychiatric liaison service at Lausanne University Hospital, said, "This work opens up a whole new line of research." Another member of the jury, Professor Darius Razavi from the Université libre de Bruxelles, called the research a "marvellous study" dealing with "people in very vulnerable situations". Now financing must be found so that the study can be continued. "It is easier to obtain funding for collecting rather than analysing data," rightly says Nicolas Favez...


>> Cairo Notari, S. (2016). L’ajustement psychologique de la femme et de son partenaire au cancer du sein. / The psychological adjustment of women and their partners to breast cancer. Supervised by Nicolas Favez. University of Geneva

Previous publication:

>> Favez, N., Cairo Notari, S., Charvoz, L., Notari, L., Ghisletta, P., Panes Ruedin, B., Delaloye, J.-F.. (2015). Distress and body image disturbances in women with breast cancer in the immediate postsurgical period: The influence of attachment insecurity. Journal of Health Psychology. 1–10. 2015.

PS = Social Democratic Party / UDC = Swiss People's Party

Workers’ move to the Swiss People’s Party came a decade after their shift away from socialism

In a new article for the journal Social Change in Switzerland, Line Rennwald and Adrian Zimmermann examine the development of the blue-collar vote in Switzerland between 1971 and 2011. Based on data from ten electoral surveys, the authors show that the Swiss People's Party has been able to fill a gap since the 1990s, after four consecutive parliamentary terms in which the Social Democratic Party lost influence among the working classes.

The article by Line Rennwald and Adrian Zimmermann presents the first systematic analysis of all electoral surveys between 1971 and 2011. Their analysis makes it possible to retrace the steps that led to the divorce between the Social Democratic Party and a significant part of the blue-collar electorate.

Two distinct processes

The authors highlight two distinct processes: firstly a weakening of support from workers for the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s; then the dramatic rise of the Swiss People's Party among this electorate from 1995 onwards. Between the two, and especially at the federal elections of 1987 and 1991, the blue-collar vote was marked by high levels of abstention, which the authors identify as the key stage in the loosening of ties to the Social Democratic Party.

The proportion of workers who voted for the Social Democratic Party decreased from 38% in 1975 to 16% in 2011. At this point, nearly 40% of workers voted for the Swiss People's Party, compared to 8% in 1975. While the Social Democratic Party has lost blue-collar votes in all of Switzerland's linguistic regions, it secures more support among the working classes of the French-speaking cantons.

Changes in the policy programmes

The authors mainly explain these changes with the development of the parties' policy programmes. While the Social Democratic Party has taken up the issues relating to the "new social movements" such as environmentalism, feminism and pacifism, the Swiss People's Party has focused its activity on the subjects of immigration policy and sovereignty in the face of Europe. The populist stance of the Swiss People's Party on these issues has succeeded in uniting the working classes – even though they have little to gain from this party's ultraliberal positions in terms of economic policy.

>> Line Rennwald et Adrian Zimmermann. (2016). Le vote ouvrier en Suisse, 1971-2011. / Der Wahlentscheid der Arbeiter in der Schweiz, 1971-2011.
Social Change in Switzerland No 4. Retrieved from

Contact: Dr. Line Rennwald, +41 79 761 32 81, line.rennwald@gmail.com

The series Social Change in Switzerland documents the evolution of Switzerland’s social structure. It is edited by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, the Life Course and Inequalities Research Centre of the University of Lausanne LINES , and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES). The aim is to monitor change in employment, family, income, mobility, voting, or gender in Switzerland. Based on cutting edge empirical research, the series targets a wider audience than just academic experts.

An informal setting to talk about population issues in an interdisciplinary way

An informal setting to talk about population issues in an interdisciplinary way

The 6th edition of the Alpine Population Conference (Alp-Pop 2016) took place in the village of Villars-sur-Ollon in the Swiss Alps from January 26 to 29, 2016. Organised by the Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics at Bocconi University (Italy) and the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research LIVES, it brought together above 30 delegates from 12 countries sharing interest in the social sciences and a taste for a certain “art de vivre”.

“This is a special conference for many reasons”, said Prof. Laura Bernardi, NCCR LIVES deputy director, at the opening of the Alp-Pop 2016 Conference on Tuesday January 26. First, population studies presented here stem from many academic fields including demography, economics, political science, sociology and psychology. Second, there is time for formal and informal discussions during and in-between sessions including the long breaks reserved for skiing, walking, trekking or just enjoying the spa facilities of the venue in Villars-sur-Ollon.

The organisers had announced that the conference would “emphasize empirical rigor and innovation over a given topic or geographical area.” That was actually the case, with presentations such as “Political Islam, Marriage and Fertility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment” (Francesco Billari, University of Oxford), “A new tool for old questions: A sequence analysis multistate model of women’s employment trajectories before and after the German reunification” (Matthias Studer, University of Geneva), “Does vocational training give a head start and a lousy end? Life-course employment and earnings of vocational versus general education” (Daniel Oesch, University of Lausanne), to name but a few.

There was also a poster session with six more junior researchers like Florence Rossignon, who showed “Different pathways out of the parental home: A gender perspective”, and Gina Potarca, who presented “The occurrence, Timing, and Stability of Mixed Unions in Switzerland”. Both are doctoral and post-doctoral fellows at the NCCR LIVES.

International and interdisciplinary

Many delegates came from Switzerland, Italy, UK, USA, and different countries from Northern Europe. But there were also participants from more remote regions. Arlette Simo Fotso (University Cheikh Anta Diop) presented a study on the “Cost of child disability for parents’ labour market participation in Cameroon”, and Elsa El Hachem-Kirby (Lebanese University) talked about the “Migrants’ contribution to prosperity and development: Lebanese entrepreneurs in Brazil – from rags to riches”. This session gave rise to a very rich discussion between sociologists and economists, as Luca Piccoli (University of Balearic Island) gave the third talk on “Intrahousehold distribution in migrant-sending families”.

“Ski-note” speakers were Elizabeth Thomson (sociologist, University of Stockholm and University of Wisconsin – Madison), and Daniel Hamermesh (economist, Royal Holloway University of London and University of Texas at Austin). The titles of their lectures were respectively “Cohabitation and Family Complexity in Europe”, and “Should there be an Economics of Time Use? Is there?” Again, a lively discussion on interdisciplinarity ensued after Dan's talk.

That was the second year the NCCR LIVES co-organises an Alp-Pop conference with the Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics. This event was created in 2011 together with the Max Planck Institute, which withdrew two years ago. Some participants have become real afficionados: "The scientific quality is always excellent here”, one said.

 >> Full programme

Call for Project Proposals on Life Course and Vulnerability

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES invites research project proposals on the theme of Vulnerability and the Life Course to be submitted. Proposals from professors, researchers and post-doctoral students working for Swiss Universities, Swiss school of higher education, Swiss research institutes and the NCCR LIVES are welcome. Two to three 3-year projects ranging from 200’000 to 300’000 CHF will be granted for the whole project. Project proposals which are interdisciplinary or are using longitudinal data are especially welcome.

*** The call is closed ***


Research proposals should focus on one of the following topics, which are directly inspired from the cross-cutting issues of the NCCR LIVES:

Topic 1 - Dynamics of stress and resources across life domains:
Projects related to this topic should aim at understanding the permeability between stresses and resources across different life domains such as family, employment, migration trajectories, and psychological well-being. They should examine the short-term impact of critical events and transitions on individuals and how individuals adapt to these.

Topic 2 - Dynamics of stress and resources in social interaction:
This theme encourages submissions which look at the dynamics of stress and resources among interdependent individuals within family or between peers, and between individuals and their normative context. The focus is on understanding individual vulnerability in context, at different levels of analysis.

Topic 3 - Dynamics of stress and resources over time:
Proposals targeting this topics should be related to the exploration of the long-term processes of accumulation of advantages and disadvantages over time. The long-term consequences of earlier life-course conditions and the occurrence and succession of life-course hazards and vulnerability states are central to this topic.

Conditions of Participation

  1. ­Scholars from any academic disciplines working for a Swiss research institution are invited to apply (note that the principal investigator cannot ask money for him/herself).
  2. The overall project budget should range from 200’000 CHF to 300’000 CHF.
  3. ­Projects should not exceed three years.


Each project proposal will be peer-reviewed by a committee composed of international scholars. Based on the ranking of this committee, the Direction of the NCCR LIVES will make a decision on the number of projects to be funded. The successful projects are expected to begin being funded by September 1, 2016.

Documents to submit

You are required to provide the following information in English:

  1. The application form which shall be completed online.
  2. Your project description (max. 4000 words).
  3. Your CV.
  4. A publication list (please underline your five main publications related to the project proposal).


You are invited to submit your proposal before April 29, 2016. Should you have any questions, please send an e-mail to scientific@lives-nccr.ch.

Posters from LIVES-CIGEV at the Swiss National Gerontology Congress

Posters from LIVES-CIGEV at the Swiss National Gerontology Congress

Researchers from the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, based at the Interfaculty Centre of Gerontology and Vulnerability Studies (CIGEV) of the University of Geneva, will present posters on their research during the next biennial congress of the Swiss Society of Gerontology in Freibourg (CH) on January 29.

The Swiss National Gerontology Congress will take place from January 28 to 29, 2016 at the University of Freiburg on the topic of “age @ technology”.

Twelve heads of renowned national and international research teams have been invited to present their current projects and results together with their teams. This poster session will give a global overview of gerontological research.

Professors Michel Oris’ and Matthias Kliegel’s selection, both leaders of IP213 within NCCR LIVES, is listed below.

  • Siboney Minko: Les croyances et les pratiques religieuses chez les personnes âgées issues de l’immigration espagnole à Genève
  • Oana Ciobanu & Marie Baeriswyl: Comparing the support model for ageing natives and migrants in Switzerland
  • Marthe Nicolet: When the family of the deceased said thank you. Death notices in Geneva and Valais
  • Rainer Gabriel: Poverty in old-age: Three decades of progress, but not for everyone
  • Andreas Ihle (& Michel Oris, Delphine Fagot, Christian Maggiori, Matthias Kliegel): The association of educational attainment, cognitive level of job, and leisure activities during the course of adulthood with cognitive performance in old age: The role of openness to experience
  • Delphine Fagot (& Christian Chicherio, Cédric T. Albinet, Nathalie André, Michel Audiffren): The impact of physical activity and gender on intra-individual variability in inhibitory performance in older adults
  • Fanny Vallet (& Olivier Desrichard, Delphine Fagot, Dario Spini): The clinical meaning of different levels of memory complaint: a study on the VLV Swiss sample

>> More about the Congress

>> Full list of the posters




Photo iStock © selimaksan

Transition from working life to retirement tends to change or even to fade, sociologists observe

The last issue of the Swiss Journal of Sociology addresses the transformations of retirement policies. Edited by René Knüsel, Jean-François Bickel, François Höpflinger, and Béatrice Vatron-Steiner, it presents a broad overview of the issues and tensions around retirement policies in Switzerland and also by comparison in other European countries.

This special issue on pension policy seeks to develop a broad perspective on actual and planned changes in this particularly sensitive area of social policy and, more generally, of population management. The reforms announced in Switzerland in particular will have important consequences for future generations of retirees. But changes are already underway and the transition from working life to retirement tends to change or even to fade. The same retired status is envolving, since the principles of activation, recommended for all persons for the benefit of state intervention, now also apply to pensioners. The use of concepts like “seniors at work” or “professionally active retirees” shows the relativity of these limits.

Among the seven articles following the editors' introduction, three are authored by researchers who have a link with the NCCR LIVES. Here are their titles and abstracts.

Subjective Well-being: The Impact of the Transition to Retirement in Switzerland

By Boris Wernli, Valérie-Anne Ryser, and Carmen Borrat-Besson

Based on the Swiss Households Panel Dataset (SHP) and in a life course perspective, this article aims at documenting the timing of the transition to retirement and its impact on the life satisfaction of seniors. The results demonstrate that workers with the most difficult working conditions present more difficulties to manage this life transition and its consequent change in social roles. These results show the need to possess personal resources, notably the ability to take on new social roles, to anticipate, prepare, and, finally, cope, when the time has come, with this major life transition.
Confronting Active Ageing with Empirical Evidence: A Structural Equation ModelApproach. The Case of Older Migrants Living in Switzerland

By Laure Kaeser and Jonathan Zufferey

This article discusses the relationship between contemporary norms and actual practice in relation to ageing, by comparing Swiss policy ambitions for active ageing with the living conditions of older people. It focuses on older migrants, who are overrepresented among disadvantaged populations. The results are derived from the survey «Vivre/Leben/Vivere» which deals with the living conditions of individuals aged 65 and above. Using a structural equation model, the article identifies configurations of activities and their explanatory factors, in order to better understand the determinants which structure the access to active ageing. The conclusion is that the notion of active ageing does not embrace the diversity of older people’s activities, and neglects socioeconomic inequalities at retirement.
The Persistence of Social Stratification? A Life Course Perspective on Poverty in Old-Age in Switzerland

By Rainer Gabriel, Michel Oris, Matthias Studer, and Marie Baeriswyl

The aim of this article is to investigate the factors underlying old-age poverty, with particular emphasis on its construction along the life course. We focus on the question whether the inclusion of life course information could account forsocial and gender differences in old-age poverty in Switzerland. Our
results suggest that the most determining factor is a person’s initial human capital, corresponding to a traditional social stratification framework. We were not able to detect any significant influence of work, family or relationship trajectories. Gender differences seem due mostly to the long-term impact of educational differences.

Source: http://www.sgs-sss.ch/en-sociojournal-actual_number

>> René Knüsel, Jean-François Bickel, François Höpflinger, Béatrice Vatron-Steiner (Eds.). (2015). Transformations of retirement policies. Swiss Journal of Sociology. 41 (3), Special Issue.

Participate in the Winter School on Life Course and maybe publish a peer-reviewed paper?

Participate in the Winter School on Life Course and maybe publish a peer-reviewed paper?

Doctoral candidates can apply until December 10, 2015 to the 3rd Winter School on Life Course, which is organised by the NCCR LIVES in collaboration with Oregon State University (USA), University of Bremen (Germany), Western University (Canada), and Umeå University (Sweden). A previous edition of this winter school resulted in an article that was published in the European Sociological Review this year.

“Normative Climates of Parenthood across Europe: Judging Voluntary Childlessness and Working Parents” was published recently in the European Sociological Review, two years after the LIVES Winter School on Life Course where this paper had been initiated. Instructors Richard A. Settersten, Véronique Eicher, and Dario Spini had spent a week in 2013 in the Swiss Alps with Sandra Penic, Stephanie Glaeser, and Aude Martenot. All of those three were still doctoral students at the time. The collaborative work was launched during the workshop “Perceptions of the life course in Europe: Age, gender and generation norms”.

The next Winter School on Life Course will take place from February 27 to March 5, 2016, again at the Hotel des Sources (photo) in Les Diablerets, a cute little village up in the mountains. This third edition will feature two workshops with the following instructors:

1. Loss of a partner – a life-course perspective

  • Laura Bernardi, professor of life course and demography at the University of Lausanne
  • Pasqualina Perrig Chiello, professor of psychology at the University of Berne
  • Betina Hollstein, professor of sociology at the University of Bremen      

2. How to preserve cognitive health in old age?

  • Matthias Kliegel, professor of psychology at the University of Geneva
  • Andreas Ihle, senior researcher and lecturer at the University of Geneva
  • David Bunce, professor of neuropsychology at the University of Leeds

These interdisciplinary workshops will occur in small groups of 6 to 8 students. The experts will lead each of these research workshops with the aim of preparing collaborative articles through a process of learning by doing.

There are still a few places left, reason why the application deadline has been extended until December 10, 2015. For more details on the workshops, information about the venue and the costs as well as the registration procedure, please consult https://www.lives-nccr.ch/en/winterschool_2016.

Swiss Society for Research in Education's Annual Conference 2016 : "Where does school stop?..."

Swiss Society for Research in Education's Annual Conference 2016 : "Where does school stop?..."

"Where does school stop? Transformations and shifts of educational boundaries" is the title of the next annual conference of the SSRE from June 29 to July 1, 2016 at the University of Lausanne. The deadline of the call for papers is set on January 31, 2016. Among the proposed topics, "Transitions and orientations" and "Lifelong learning" could be of interest to scholars specialising in life course studies. The NCCR LIVES is one of the sponsors.

The prolonging of education in general and the development of lifelong learning have moved the traditional boundaries in education. New forms of teaching and learning are becoming part of everyday practices and relationships. Bodies of knowledge themselves are transformed or challenged through public debates about social issues. Nowadays, societal challenges, which are shaking up debates on citizenship, the use of technology and environmental issues, are also evident in school. As a consequence, the boundaries between education, everyday life and professional activity are transformed, moved and blurred.

The annual conference of the Swiss Society for Research in Education (SSRE) aims to question and discuss the main challenges inherent in these changes. Researchers are invited to propose a contribution with a specific focus on the following themes:

  1. The relation between training/education, everyday life and professional life (school-family relationships, integration and inclusion processes, prevention programmes, education on sensitive social issues, etc.)
  2. Education policies (transformation of educational organisations and programmes, political and institutional challenges in relation to education and training, debates on citizenship education, vocational training and unemployment, etc.)
  3. The transformation of educational professions (changes in the training of trainers or in educational provision and materials, health and safety at work, etc.)
  4. Transitions and orientations (in school; between school and vocational training or professional life; between professional life and retirement; inequality processes and practices of differentiation; redefinition of identity, etc.)
  5. Lifelong learning (the contribution of longitudinal studies, the challenges of continuing professional development, life stories, etc.)
  6. Material mediations (the role of mediation tools and objects, media, image and ICT, electronic games and social networks, etc.)

Beyond these themes, researchers will be invited to submit proposals about research projects in progress and pertaining to all domains of educational science. The conference languages are French, German, Italian and English.

Call for papers

Whereas the keynotes address the conference theme, all other contributions focus on a variety of themes from all areas of educational research.

For your submission please select ssre 2016 – submission
January 31, 2016
Presentation formats : Individual paper, Symposium and Poster

Themes of the conference

  • The relation between training/education, everyday life and professional life
  • Education policies
  • The transformation of educational professions
  • Transitions and orientations
  • Lifelong learning
  • Material mediations
  • Other

>> Conference website

Special Tribute to Valeria Solesin, a PhD Student in Paris killed on Friday 13th in the Bataclan theater

Special Tribute to Valeria Solesin, a PhD Student in Paris killed on Friday 13th in the Bataclan theater

By NCCR LIVES deputy director Laura Bernardi, who met her a few hours before the tragedy during a meeting at the French National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED).

Valeria Solesin, a doctoral student at INED in Paris, is among the victims of Friday 13th November 2015 in the Bataclan theatre. I met her on that very day when she asked me to be part of the scientific committee of a congress of young researchers she wanted to organise in September 2016. A few hours later her past and her future, her life, have been blown away by the absurdity of the terrorist attack.

Valeria was one of those young Italian students who left home to pursue her dream, to be able to study and work on what she thought would be a useful and meaningful domain: ensuring equal opportunities for mothers at work. Something that her killers cannot accept and maybe cannot even understand. Valeria was also a convinced pacifist and an active member of the NGO Emergency, who provides assistance to the civil victims of wars, in times when attacks to civilians multiply.

These few lines are here to thank her for both her research work and her civic engagement, both examples of the kind of agency and resilience we need when we are made vulnerable.

Laura Bernardi

Photo iStock © Sturti

Kids and workload are worse than illness for couples, but things get better at retirement

The relationship quality of 721 couples in Switzerland over a period of thirteen years is at the core of a PhD thesis that was conducted within the framework of the NCCR LIVES. Manuela Schicka successfully defended her dissertation on September 30th, 2015 at the University of Geneva. She demonstrated that while the various styles of conjugal interactions generally remain stable along the life course, some critical life events and transitions weigh much more on relationship quality than others, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Sociology of the family had already observed the spillover effect of socio-professional problems on conjugal relationships. Being unemployed or encountering financial difficulties is for sure not the easiest path to romantic felicity. We also knew that the transition to parenthood might be a huge blow for partners. But how to measure relationship quality? How does it evolve over time? And have all critical life events the same impact?

Longitudinal data collected within the NCCR LIVES’ IP208 project allowed Manuela Schicka to answer those questions. The Social Stratification, Cohesion and Conflicts in Contemporary Families survey, which Prof. Eric Widmer has been conducting since 1998 at the University of Geneva, generated unique information on stability and change among couples living in Switzerland.

1442 heterosexual long-lasting partners were observed in Manuela Schicka’s study. They were part of those who accepted to participate in the first and third wave of the survey in 1998 and 2011. During the second wave in 2004 it had only been possible to interview the women. The third wave also tried to reach separated or divorced people, but those were not included in the present analysis.

Critical life events and transitions

The doctoral candidate investigated if different critical life events and transitions have had an impact on the relationship quality and whether the types of conjugal interaction had an effect or not on these outcomes. She looked at normative (i.e. expected and ordinary) transitions like becoming parents, grown children leaving home (the “empty nest” syndrome) and retirement. She also examined non-normative (i.e. unexpected and unintended) events like socio-professional and health-related problems.

In order to address the relationship quality, she looked at indicators such as relationship satisfaction, thoughts of separation, conflicts of different sorts, and severity of arguments.

The styles of conjugal interactions were identified following the typology set by Jean Kellerhals and Eric Widmer, which is based on dimensions like cohesion (fusion vs. autonomy, openness vs. closure) and regulation (level of gendered role differentiation, level of routinisation).

High degree of fusion is an asset

Manuela Schicka’s research found that couples with a high degree of fusion resisted better to life hazards. She also observed that the style of conjugal interactions change very little over the life course. However, some transitions, especially the retirement phase, tend to result in the growth of fusion. This moment in time and the “empty nest” transition appeared as rather beneficial for relationship quality. By contrast, transition to parenthood and socio-professional problems generated more conflicts and a decrease in relationship satisfaction.

It is also interesting to note that serious illness and injuries do not affect relationship quality. Almost half of the interviewed couples had been confronted to health problems between the first and the third wave, whereas only 20% faced socio-professional difficulties.

Responsible or not for life hazards

Manuela Schicka explains the difference of outcome between work and health related problems by the fact that people are considered as controlling their occupational trajectory, whereas illness and accidents are seen as linked to bad luck and not personal responsibility. There is therefore less grief and bitter thoughts between partners when the latter occur. Furthermore, she notes that “the importance of life events in the professional domain can be explained by the importance for men and women in Switzerland to be part of and active in the labour market. A failure in this life domain leads to frustrations and disappointments.”

The other Swiss characteristic is related to the issue of children: as the researcher observes, “transition to parenthood is associated with a higher degree of closure of the couple, as well as greater differentiation of functional roles.” Women in this country often abandon or substantially reduce their participation in the labour market once they become a mother, because of lack of institutionalised child care facilities. This also generates a great deal of frustration.

It is therefore ironical that the main purpose of matrimonial union, having kids, is a major challenge to couple stability, whereas transitions to the “empty nest” and to retirement succeed in reuniting couples at an age that is generally not perceived as the most romantic one…

>> Schicka, Manuela (2015). The Impact of Critical Life Events and Life Transitions on Conjugal Quality: A Configurational Approach. Under the supervision of Eric Widmer. University of Geneva

Image iStock © Jennifer Borton

Gender inequality is still mirrored in young people's career aspirations

The third issue of the series Social Change in Switzerland addresses the gender division concerning career aspirations among adolescents. This article, by Lavinia Gianettoni et al., demonstrates that the majority of girls intend to enter a profession that is mixed or atypical in terms of gender. However, two-thirds see themselves working part-time in order to be able to combine work and family life. The internalisation of gender norms is thus maintaining the segregation of women on the labour market, which does not make sense from an economic perspective.

The article is based on a study on the professional aspirations and orientation among girls and boys nearing the end of compulsory education, which was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. It involved collecting data from 3,302 adolescents aged between 13 and 15 in five Swiss cantons (Geneva, Vaud, Ticino, Aargau and Bern) in 2011.

The authors have observed that almost two-thirds of the boys surveyed hope to enter a profession that is typical in terms of gender, i.e. one in which people of their own sex make up 70% or more of the total (IT specialist, police officer, etc.). Less than a third would like to enter mixed professions (doctor, secondary school teacher, etc.) and just 7% aim for an atypical profession (primary school teacher, hairdresser, etc.). As for the girls, a third would like to enter a typically female profession (early years teacher, beauty therapist, etc.), half are interested in a mixed profession and 19% would prefer an atypical profession (lawyer, engineer, etc.).

The data also show that two-thirds of girls imagine that they will work part-time in the future for family reasons, compared to 37% of boys. And while the boys' desired level of activity is not related to a particular type of career, the girls who want to work part-time are more likely to choose "women's" professions.

Institutional and ideological factors

The authors conclude that institutional and ideological factors still have an impact on young people's aspirations: insufficient childcare structures, a lack of work-life balance in certain professions and the way children are socialised – which still favours the division of roles based on gender – are maintaining the horizontal and vertical segregation of women on the labour market. There are still fewer women in professions that are valued by society and well paid. The same applies to high-level positions.

What is more, the persistence of these gender-based inequalities has an economic impact, since young women's training is not fully exploited by the labour market. For these reasons it is vital to keep working to remove the many constraints that limit young people's professional and family-related ambitions.

>> Lavinia Gianettoni, Carolina Carvalho Arruda, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier, Dinah Gross, Dominique Joye (2015)
Aspirations professionnelles des jeunes en Suisse: rôles sexués et conciliation travail/famille
Berufswünsche der Jugendlichen in der Schweiz: stereotype Rollenbilder und die Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Beruf

[Professional aspirations of young people in Switzerland: gendered roles and work-life balance]
Social Change in Switzerland No. 3.
Retrieved from www.socialchangeswitzerland.ch

Contacts: Dr. Lavinia Gianettoni, 079 565 35 81, Lavinia.Gianettoni@unil.ch