Sym­po­sium: Eas­ing the « rush hour » of life – Diver­si­ty of life cours­es in inter­na­tion­al com­par­i­son

From July 4th to July 6th, 2008, the Foun­da­tion for the Rights of Future Gen­er­a­tions (FRFG) organ­ised a sym­po­sium on “Eas­ing the «rush hour» of life – Diver­si­ty of life cours­es in inter­na­tion­al com­par­i­son”. The par­tic­i­pants includ­ed renowned experts as well as young sci­en­tists from sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries. In the course of the sym­po­sium, the FRFG also award­ed the 4th Inter­gen­er­a­tional Jus­tice Price 2007/08. The sym­po­sium did not sin­gle out a spe­cif­ic phase of life but focus on the whole course of life.

The out­lined sym­po­sium did not pur­sue the ques­tion “How can we use the life-years we gained due to increas­ing life expectan­cy?” because there is already a lot of research done (cp. Forschungs­gruppe Altern und Lebenslauf, Instead it dealt with the issue “To what extent should we change the plan­ning of our life right from the start, know­ing that our life expectan­cy is high­er than the one of pre­vi­ous cohorts?” This ques­tion focus­es on the eas­ing of the so-called « rush hour » of life between the ages of 28 and 38. Dur­ing this peri­od, peo­ple fin­ish their appren­tice­ships or stud­ies; they begin to work and have to decide whether or not to start a fam­i­ly. It is this cru­cial peri­od of time we have to exam­ine to detect the under­ly­ing caus­es for the dif­fer­ence between the desired and the actu­al num­ber of chil­dren in Ger­many. The total fer­til­i­ty rate cur­rent­ly lies at 1.34 chil­dren per woman (1.26 in the East­ern part and 1.36 in the West­ern part of the coun­try), where­as women desire to have 1.74 and men to have 1.57 chil­dren. Dif­fer­ences between the num­bers for East and West Ger­many are on aver­age bare­ly detectable. East Ger­man women’s desire for chil­dren (1.73) exceeds West Ger­man women’s (1,78) only to a small extend, where­as East Ger­man men desire a lit­tle less chil­dren (1.46) than West Ger­man men (1.59) (Bib 2005, 36). These num­bers already show the impor­tance of a gen­der-spe­cif­ic analy­sis of the sub­ject.

There­fore it is impor­tant to research whether an eas­ing of the third life-decade could achieve a reduc­tion of prob­lem­at­ic con­di­tions regard­ing the com­pat­i­bil­i­ty of job and fam­i­ly. Besides a bet­ter com­bi­na­tion of kids and careers dur­ing this decade, the pos­si­ble options for avoid­ing a dou­ble strain by decou­pling (pref­er­ence of the career, pref­er­ence of fam­i­ly life, post­pone­ment of the career, post­pone­ment of the start­ing of a fam­i­ly) have been analysed dur­ing the project.

The sym­po­sium was divid­ed into two parts that were in turn exam­ined from inter­na­tion­al and gen­der per­spec­tives. In short, we first­ly analyse the time bud­get of the cohorts in ques­tion and lat­er on their finan­cial bud­gets. This approach and the con­sid­er­a­tion of both aspects allows for com­pre­hen­sive con­clu­sions.

In con­sis­tence with the inter­na­tion­al and gen­der per­spec­tives, the expe­ri­ences of oth­er coun­tries in their attempts to dis­en­tan­gle the « rush-hour » for the indi­vid­ual (both in pri­vate and pro­fes­sion­al life) as well as in rela­tion to the wel­fare state and soci­ety as a whole have been exam­ined care­ful­ly in the first part of the sym­po­sium. The dif­fer­ing con­se­quences for the sex­es were equal­ly analysed. The sec­ond part focused on the age spe­cif­ic dis­tri­b­u­tion of income, again from inter­na­tion­al and gen­der per­spec­tives.

You can find the con­cept and pro­gramme of the sym­po­sium here. In the fol­low-up of the sym­po­sium, a spe­cial issue of the Inter­gen­er­a­tional Jus­tice Review will be devot­ed to the top­ic. Fur­ther­more, a book with con­tri­bu­tions of the symposium’s par­tic­i­pants and oth­er sci­en­tists shall be pub­lished in 2009.