9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Inequalities Building I, 2E4

Coping with Precariousness - Household Strategies between Objective Constraints and Subjective Scope of Action

In recent years the concept of "precariousness" (précarité) has become very prominent within research on social inequality. "Precariousness" can be characterized by fundamental uncertainty: a further social decline, a persistence in this insecurity or even a (re-)advancement into a secure social position are possible (Kraemer 2008). Although numerous studies on households in poverty and their respective "survival strategies" do exist, only a few analyze the actual precariousness of specific groups of the population and their coping strategies. Due to latest research results (Farago et al. 2005) not only objective factors (e.g. low income) have an influence on the choice of coping strategies, but also do subjective factors (e.g. the perception of one's own social position) play an essential role. Our contribution focuses on those subjective factors.

Our analysis is based on two methods: By means of qualitative data from Chile, Spain and Switzerland the household strategies as well as the motives and the perceptions of these households will be analyzed. Within the project "A Comparative Perspective on Strategies of Households in Precarious Living Conditions in Four Countries" financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) extensive qualitative data about precarious living conditions have been collected. We analyze opinions about and expectations towards the state - or more specific the welfare state - by means of data provided by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP, 44 countries) concerning the "role of government". The aim of the analysis is to estimate the strength of the influence of objective circumstances and the attitudes towards the (welfare) state on coping strategies of precarious households.

First findings indicate that household strategies vary according to the perception of the role of the state in terms of social security, employment or health and education responsibilities as well as according to the institutional arrangements itself. Furthermore, opportunity structures (e.g. the local labour market or the social security system) influence the choice of a specific strategy. Therefore they have a massive influence on how uncertainty is handled. Nevertheless, every single household has a relatively wide (subjective) scope of action in developing specific strategies against precariousness within these objective constraints.