During their working lives individuals can experience key labour market transitions, and it is these that are the focus of this chapter. Data from the first seven waves of the British Household Panel Survey and the lifetime employment and job histories are used to study changes in economic activity such as the transition from school to work, unemployment experiences and retirement. Career progression is also investigated by analysing the length of time people remain in the same job, career mobility, and transitions into and out of part-time and self-employment. By applying longitudinal data to these analyses, it is possible to identify those lifetime and job-related events that influence subsequent labour market changes – such as losing or gaining a job, or being promoted – and thus have direct policy relevance.
Although the labour market is complex, for the purpose of this study individuals’ working lives are categorised into three broad stages that correspond to major life-cycle events: the transition from school to work; labour market experiences over working lives; and entering retirement. These stages do not work in isolation. However, this approach provides an analytical structure to a large and wide ranging set of issues, allowing broad patterns of labour market behaviour to be established. The first stage, concerning initial labour market experiences on leaving full-time education, for many coincides with leaving the parental home and moving away from their parents’ region of residence (detailed later in Chapter Six). People leave education at different ages: some leave at 16 (at the earliest legal opportunity); others move into further education and enter the labour market at 18.
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