All European countries share concerns about changing structure of the population, decreasing fertility and increasing ageing, which puts a special pressure on social policy. Scientific research is nevertheless mostly concentrated on Western European countries with well-established welfare systems.
This project will bring into attention Eastern European countries where weaker economies, large emigration and dramatic decrease in fertility make it even harder to sustain the labour force and meet the welfare needs. It aims to explore life course patterns in both Eastern and Western European countries focusing on one transition that is increasingly important for the social and employment policies, namely transition to adulthood.
With the life course approach as a background framework, this project will examine timing of adulthood along a ‘triangle’ of policies, practices, and attitudes. Juxtaposing these three analytical dimensions it intends to reveal the trajectories of the transition to adulthood, their similarities and differences across the continent. Using a combination of methods (statistical data, survey analysis, interviews), we will carry out the analysis in three stages: 1) large cross-national comparison of 25 European countries with subsequent focus on the most typical cases, 2) examination of variation in Eastern European countries, and 3) in-depth comparison of two countries, where postponement of adulthood to mid-twenties is triggered by different set of economic and social factors (Russia and Sweden). Analysis of the multiple dimensions of the life course development aims to demonstrate how personal and institutional actions intertwine.
The project aims to contribute to the ongoing sociological discussions about the relations between the structure and agency. This study will enrich our understanding of the ways in which different Eastern and Western European institutional frameworks create paths for the life course development. It will also highlight how individuals internalise those paths in attitudes and enact them in practices. In this respect it is essential to explore the countries in the Baltic Sea region together with other European countries. Bringing main focus on East European countries, we will also enrich the understanding of the processes that take place in many countries of the Baltic Sea region.