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“New” and “Old” Social Risks: Life Cycle and Social Class Perspectives on Social Exclusion in Ireland*

Christopher Whelan () and Bertrand Maître

The Economic and Social Review, 2008, vol. 39, issue 2, 131-156

Abstract: The life cycle concept has come to have considerable prominence in Irish social policy debate. However, this has occurred without any systematic effort to link its usage to the broader literature relating to the concept. Nor has there been any detailed consideration of how we should set about operationalising the concept. In this paper we argue the need for “macro” life cycle perspectives that have been influenced by recent challenges to the welfare state to be combined with “micro” perspectives focusing on the dynamic and multidimensional nature of social exclusion. We make use of Irish EU-SILC 2005 data in developing a life cycle schema and considering its relationship to a range of indicators of social exclusion. At the European level renewed interest in the life cycle concept is associated with the increasing emphasis on the distinction between “new” and “old” social risks and the notion that the former are more “individualised”. Inequality and poverty rather than being differentially distributed between social classes are thought to vary between phases in the average work life. Our findings suggest the “death of social class” thesis is greatly overblown. A more accurate appreciation of the importance of new and old social risks requires that we systematically investigate the manner in which factors such as social class and the life cycle interact.

Date: 2008
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http://www.esr.ie/Vol39_2/03-Whelan.pdf First version, 2008 (application/pdf)

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