This course looks at how public policies shape life course decisions and transitions, such as family formation or dissolution, labour market transitions, intergenerational relationships, elderly care and death. It considers commonalities and differences between countries and how these have been conceptualised, analysed and explained. We discuss cross-national variations in different types of policies, such as measures for work-family reconciliation, lone parent income support, promotion of child wellbeing and support for elderly care. Most attention is given to European social policies but students are welcome to share their knowledge of policy issues from other regions of the world.
The course gives students an introduction to the main demographic trends in Western societies and economic and sociological theories which have been proposed to explain these changes. Knowledge about these theories is essential for understanding how demographic trends may be driving policy changes and how policies are assumed to affect demographic behavior. The key competence for public policy students taught in this course is to understand how social policies and individuals act within a complex setting of policies which provide different – and possibly even contradictory – economic and normative incentives. The course makes use of various “teaching methods”. For example, there will be “debate sessions” during which students are expected to argue over policy relevant issues. Typical questions that are discussed during the debate sessions are: Should public policies aim at increasing the birth rate? Should the pension age be increased to age 70? Should governments allow assisted dying?