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Conference Paper BHPS-2005 Conference: the 2005 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 30 June -2 July 2005, Colchester, UK

Changing nature of career? A study of work-life histories by using sequence methods


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Since the late 1970s, there have been dramatic organisational changes in the wider
labour market context, as evidenced by the occurrence of corporate downsizing and
workforce reduction, the growth of part-time and temporary employment, and the
retreat of internal labour market practices (Burchell et al. 2002; Grimshaw et al. 2000;
McGovern et al. 1999; Nolan and Walsh 1995). Basing on a national representative
survey, Gallie et al. (1998) have reported a growing career instability, as measured by
more incidences of unemployment and longer unemployment spells, among men and
women in their twenties and thirties. In the same vein, using retrospective work
history data over the period between 1915 and 1990, Booth et al. (1999) have found
that recent cohorts not only report shorter job tenure but also experience more
involuntary job separations in their first and fifth jobs than those from earlier cohorts.
The fact about men and women from recent cohorts becoming more vulnerable to the
economic turbulence in the last few decades is well founded. A cohort effect does
exist in affecting the labour market experience and the career mobility of people from
different labour market entry cohorts.
To investigate the changing career patterns across cohorts, I use the work-life
employment status history data (xlempe) (1908-1999) and the occupational data
(newpan) (1990-2003) of the BHPS. The former file allows me to map out the whole
trajectories of general labour market activity of individuals and to compare the
similarities and differences of career trajectories across cohorts. Preliminary analyses
show that the most recent labour market entrants have less standardised and perhaps
more unstable labour market experiences, as evidenced by spending less time in paid
employment. The latter file, containing occupational history of this most recent
cohort, enables me to look into the more detailed occupational mobility throughout
their entire work lives. This paper will focus on the career mobility history within the
first ten years following the completion of full-time education.
Instead of focusing on distributions at few points throughout the work lives in
modelling changes, transitions, and mobility, I employ optimal matching (OM)
techniques (first introduced into sociology by Abbott (1990; 1995; 2000)) and cluster
analysis to identify distinct clusters of career sequences of individuals. Sequence
methods allow for the handling of whole career trajectory information, considering
the serial succession of different statuses, their duration and ordering, instead of only
single events or single time points. These methods offer us an opportunity to deal
with career sequence data holistically and it is exactly what existing analyses of career
mobility leave out. By making a pairwise comparison of each entire career sequence
with OM techniques and then using cluster analysis, an empirically meaningful
typology of career patterns will be generated. Regression analyses will be undertaken
to see if there is a cohort difference in career clusters. This typology of career clusters
will also be treated as independent variables to predict the labour market outcomes of
different clusters of career trajectories.


Labour Market and Life Course Analysis



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