Martina Dieckhoff, Michael Gebel, Nadia Steiber, Daniele Zaccharia
Varieties of Life Course Patterns. The Role of Institutions in Shaping Labour Market Careers in Europe

State-of-the-Art Report

The present state-of-the-art report reviews the literature that is concerned with the explanation of cross-country differences in labour market careers. Taking a life course perspective, the review consists of three sub-sections, each of which deals with a different phase in an ideal-typical life course that consists of three consecutive phases: labour market entry, the main working phase and labour market exit. Young labour market entrants often face difficulties with accessing employment after leaving school. Yet, there are vast country-differences. Section 2 discusses the main theoretical expectations with regard to institutional effects on the patterns of transition from school-to-work and presents selected empirical results on the topic, focusing on comparative studies, which test the influence of institutional factors on school-to-work transitions and the quality of the first job in multi-level quantitative analyses. Section 3 reviews the literature attempting to explain the increase in non-standard work and reports on central findings from previous empirical work that has investigated institutional effects on the prevalence and distribution of precarious work in the population. In particular, it discusses the demographic distribution of job insecurity, unemployment and non-employment (according to different education and age groups) and how such distributions vary across countries. The final section 4 reviews existing research on the institutional and macro-economic factors that create cross-country differences in older people’s labour supply decisions and in consequence marked cross-national differences in rates of early retirement. The focus is on the role played by institutional factors (e.g. flexibility and generosity of retirement schemes, employment protection legislation) and macro-economic conditions in the retirement decision in Europe.