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  • Author or Editor: Mark Taylor x
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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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Over the past two decades, there have been considerable changes in the age distribution of the population within Britain. An ageing population, caused by an increase in life expectancy and a fall in fertility rates, may induce a variety of social and economic effects. Clearly, a large and growing proportion of older people has implications for the social security system. The retired constitute a significant and growing proportion of the population, and state retirement pensions account for some 40% of government social security expenditure (5% of GDP). The change in the age structure of workers may also alter the distribution of productivity and skills (Lam, 1989), influence the level of savings in the economy (Auerbach et al, 1989), and even affect the housing market (Ermisch and Jenkins, 1999).

Over this period, the British labour market has also gone through dramatic changes. These range from increased female labour force participation and growth in part-time work to the expansion of nonstandard employment patterns (such as fixed-term contracts, flexitime, work sharing), and the diminishing importance of union membership and coverage. Of more direct relevance for older workers is the significant decline in the average retirement age (Tanner, 1998) and in economic activity (Taylor and Walker, 1996), and the proliferation of private and employer-provided pension schemes (Johnson and Stears, 1995). The ageing of the population and recent changes in the provision of pensions have highlighted the need for a better understanding of the labour market behaviour of older workers. In this chapter, we illustrate how British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) data can contribute to this understanding.

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This chapter presents an overview of recent work on cultural intermediaries and the ‘creative class’ in relation to social inequality. The chapter looks at Britain’s ‘creative class’ in relation to workforce patterns, tastes, social attitudes, and their faith in the transformative power of culture. Ultimately the chapter suggests we need caution when thinking about the impact of cultural intermediaries on social inequality.

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This article shares the reflections of members of a collaborative practitioner–academic research team in social work. The team investigated the career progression experiences of black social workers working in statutory social work services in South-East London. Our intention in this article is to share our experience of researching a subject that holds emotional and political resonance. We do so by offering individual perspectives from different team members on how their project involvement affected them both personally and professionally. We also discuss some of the general themes identified in our reflections. These include practitioners growing in research confidence, the need to create a safe emotional space for stories of researcher discomfort and uncertainty to be heard, the effects of undertaking research on professional social work identity, and curiosity about whether our research endeavours can change social work career progression policies and practices for black social work colleagues. We caution that a safe emotional container is required when researching personally and professionally sensitive, subjects such as racism and discrimination in social work. We hope that our article inspires social work practitioners to become involved in research activities.

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