Moving towards a life course perspective to labour market transitions: approaches and challenges

Over recent decades, the importance of studying labour market transitions has been recognized both amongst policymakers who focus on getting people out of unemployment and into jobs and academics who have used the increasing availability of relevant data to measure transitions and identify their determinants. At the same time, sociologists have developed a more holistic approach to studying transitions by applying a life course perspective, which takes a historical view of changes and involves transitions not only related to the labour market but also others that are central to both work and family life, e.g. shift from paid to unpaid work and exit from the labour force and into retirement. This more encompassing view of how the world of work interacts with other spheres of our lives is also in line with the challenges being posed by future of work trends, together with the impact of COVID-19.

To bring a life course perspective to the analysis of labour market transitions requires different methodologies, and depends heavily on data availability, which is a major challenge in developing countries. For this reason, the choice of methodology needs to be based on an assessment of available data and the research/policy objectives.

This paper provides some insights that will help further research on labour market transitions using a life course perspective. Further research in this area will help shed more light on the nature of transitions and how they are being impacted by not only the future of work drivers, but also the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, this analysis will provide important inputs in identifying the elements that make up decent labour market transitions, ones which reflect people’s agency and their ability to freely choose the steps of their course, in line with their personal values.