ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Social or Political Change? German Welfare Recipients' Job and Unemployment Trajectories in Motion. An Application of Sequence Analysis.

Ronald Gebauer

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 4 - Law Building, Room 106
Date: 2012-07-10 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-22


With the rhetorics of ‘promote and oblige’, the German labor market reforms were imple-mented in the year 2005. Encouraged by the scholarly assumption that previously existing schemes of unemployment benefits or social assistance hinder people from taking jobs these reforms changed the terms under which unemployed and especially low skilled people are eligible to get unemployment benefits, have access to education or job training and will find ways into employment again. Although the reforms earned much acclamation by the academic auditory and of course by politicians, there is also considerable doubt expressed by scientists who suggest that it is not the drop in benefit levels or the deterioration of benefit conditions that lead to a higher labor “motivation” in the first place but precarious conditions and height-ened competition in the labor market itself. Apart from this Marxist inspired point of view, the contribution to the conference adopts a social change approach. In this respect, Sequence analysis or Optimal Matching of entire combined job and welfare benefit histories recorded by the German Socio Economic Panel (1983-2006) can help to overcome the explanatory deficit. Comparing recipients’ job and social assistant/ unemployment benefit patterns between dif-ferent birth cohorts in West Germany reveal that labor market orientation has not lessened. On the contrary, especially the benefit / employment patterns of female recipients has changed considerably: While older cohorts can be identified by a gender specific division – in a nutshell: men at work, women staying home – the pattern changed in the job and welfare trajectories of the younger birth cohorts, where the traditional differentiation has nearly dissolved. This is only one result of the Sequence Analyses, that will be focussed by this contribution. Another one is the ever rising importance of education and growing acceleration of changes between employment, unemployment and education, particularly visible in the biographies of the younger birth cohorts. Thus empirical findings by Sequence Analysis may be a valuable information source for policy-related issues. However, research presented at the confernce will go beyond the analysis of job and benefit histories for the years until 2006 by taking into account new panel waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel for the years 2007 until 2010. Here the focus is, whether including new data has any relevant impact on past findings and if new relevant patterns can be identified.