Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives
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Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives

Edited by Daniel Wheatley

The growing diversity of contemporary paid work has provoked increased interest in understanding and evaluating the quality of working lives. This Handbook provides critical reflections on recent research in the field, including examining the inextricable links between working life and well-being.
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Chapter 3: Using a lifecourse approach to research patterns of paid and unpaid work

Irene Hardill and Daniel Wheatley


A lifecourse approach affords researchers the possibility of examining an individual's life history to understand how events influence decisions, including the role of ‘transitions’, e.g. entering paid work, volunteering following retirement, leaving paid work to provide care. In this chapter we reflect on the use of a lifecourse perspective to research time spent in forms of paid and unpaid work, specifically unpaid acts of care and voluntary work, and impacts on well-being. We report on mixed methods research, combining UK data from the English Community Life Survey, British Household Panel Survey/Understanding Society, the British Social Attitudes Survey and qualitative life history interviews derived from an ESRC-funded micro-sociological study. Our findings revealed a range of trade-offs between paid work, unpaid care and volunteering, and well-being effects. This chapter focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the application of a lifecourse perspective, and mixed method research design drawing on multiple data sources, in increasing our understanding of paid and unpaid work throughout the lifecourse.

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