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Life Course and Evolving Welfare States

Module Code


Module Name

Life Course and Evolving Welfare States

ECTS Weighting

 10 ECTS

Semester taught

Semester 1



Module Coordinator/s  

Prof. Virpi Timonen

Module Learning Outcomes with reference to the Graduate Attributes and how they are developed in discipline



On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

LO1. Describe the social processes that shape the life course from childhood to the end of working life
LO2. Identify the main societal and economic forces that bring about changes in the life course
LO3. Discuss the extent to which welfare structures shape and try to respond to the life course
LO4. Identify, from the point of view of social policy, the main challenges that confront children, low-income families, and people at risk of labour market exclusion or marginalisation
LO5. Appraise different welfare state responses to evolving social risks and outline the consequences of these actions (Graduate attribute: critical thinking)
LO6. Discuss the divergent views expressed in debates about what welfare states should do in response to new challenges (Graduate attribute: communication skills)

Module Content

During this module, students will have an opportunity to reflect on the notion of the life course: how the timing of our birth and the context we grow up and develop in influences our opportunities and outcomes in realms such as education and work. The students will be sensitised to how the life course is changing as a result of transformations in what are considered major milestones for individuals. For instance, the time spent in education is increasing, and entry into employment and parenthood are being postponed; ultimately, the exit from labour force is also set to be postponed, leading to a situation where working lives commence later but continue for longer.
The module will connect these changes in the life course to welfare state structures, which are lagging behind the pace of change in the life course, but are also trying to catch up with and adapt to these changes. The module draws on examples from a variety of welfare states and different policy sectors, with a focus on how welfare states are trying to address the (new) social risks of childhood disadvantage, weak educational opportunities, youth unemployment, precarious work, and the challenges of reconciling work and parenthood. 
The policies that the module focuses on include early childhood education and learning (or, from the working parents’ perspective, child care); higher education and vocational training; labour market activation policies; income supplements and universal minimum incomes; and other policies and interventions that seek to make individuals employable and to lift them above the poverty line in labour markets that are characterised by increasing returns to cognitive and social skills, automation, robotisation, and earnings inequality. The module concludes with some reflections on the importance of life-long learning and continuing education opportunities in light of the ongoing efforts in most welfare states to postpone retirement.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Seminars; essay writing; group work towards a presentation; presenting as member of a group; writing up notes on individual contribution to group work and presentation

Assessment Details
Please include the following:

  • Assessment Component
  • Assessment description
  • Learning Outcome(s) addressed
  • % of total
  • Assessment due date*

Assessment Component

Assessment Description

LO Addressed

% of total


Students select an essay topic that pertains to module content delivered by instructor




Students work in small groups to define presentation topic in consultation with module coordinator; divide work among themselves; collate work into a presentation; and deliver the presentation as a group

5 and 6



Reassessment Requirements

Students who fail the module are required to resubmit the failed assessment component(s). In the case of a failed presentation, the resubmission does not need to be presented in person but the slides must be accompanied by explanatory notes.

Contact Hours and Indicative Student Workload


 Contact hours:
22 hours (11x2hrs seminars)

Independent Study (preparation for course and review of materials):
120 hours

Independent Study (preparation for assessment, incl. completion of assessment):
60 hours

Recommended Reading List   

De Graaf, W. and Maier, R. (2017) ‘The welfare state and the life course: Examining the interrelationship between welfare arrangements and inequality dynamics’, Social Policy & Administration 51(1): 40-55.
France, A. (2016) Understanding youth in the global economic crisis. Bristol: Policy Press.

Garland, D. (2016) The welfare state – A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Green, L. (2017) Understanding the life course: Sociological and psychological perspectives. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Polity Press.

*A penalty of 10% will be applied to students who submit essays late without an authorised extension.