Life-courses describe people’s activities from the cradle to the grave. Because life-courses are typically complex, models are used to simplify their description. The most commonly used model is tripartite, representing lives in subsequent periods of education, work, and retirement. However, researchers criticize this model as limited in the activities considered, overly simplistic in the activity sequence, and blind to variation between life-courses. This article explores working age life-courses, which typically show high diversity. Multichannel sequence and cluster analyses are conducted on people’s activities from age 15 to 65. Data stem from the life-history interviews of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, capturing cohorts born before 1945. Findings show that three out of four working age life-courses are in line with the tripartite model. This share is particularly high among men, the cohort born 1935 to 1944, and in Northern and Eastern Europe. In contrast, a considerable share of women spent their working age on homemaking, especially women born before 1935, and those living in Southern Europe. Finally, a smaller number of men spent their working age on paid work, followed by a period of illness or of non-employment. The working age life-course patterns identified are used to develop alternative life-course models. However, for a parsimonious solution, the use of two models suffices. A combination of the tripartite model and the model equating middle age to homemaking captures the lives of more than nine out of ten older Europeans. The prevalence of working age life-course patterns in a population is country-specific, and the country differences align with the welfare regimes. This perspective makes working age life-courses characteristics of a society that can be used to map social inequalities at the macro-level and capture social change over time.
- 5141 Sosiologia
- 5142 Sosiaali- ja yhteiskuntapolitiikka