Highlights from the DIAL Final Conference

The final conference of the Dynamics of Inequality across the Life-course (DIAL) research programme took place in Brussels on the 21st and 22nd of October 2021. The conference gathered researchers and stakeholders to discuss the research on social inequality produced in the various DIAL projects. The conference was organized in a hybrid format in which all the keynote lectures and parallel sessions taking place in Brussels were streamed for the online audience. Additionally, part of the program took place fully online. Registration for the online conference was widely advertised, and there were over 100 participants following the conference remotely in addition to almost 60 participants on-site in Renaissance Brussels Hotel.

Two intensive conference days contained thought-provoking presentations, lively debates between researchers and stakeholders and coffee breaks filled with informal discussions of research and more. The conference started with the opening words by the DIAL Scientific Programme Coordinator Elina Kilpi-Jakonen. Kilpi-Jakonen gave an overview of DIAL projects and output published so far, highlighting in particular the interdisciplinary work on social mobility and gender differences in labour market careers. With great sadness, the unexpected death of James Law (leader of the SEED project) was also announced. This was followed by the keynote lectures by Professor David Bell (University of Stirling), Associate Professor Anna Matysiak (University of Warsaw), and Director for Social Rights Katarina Ivanković Knežević (European Commission). Bell focused on the unequal impacts of the covid-19 pandemic and how governments were able to cushion some of these effects in terms of redistribution. Matysiak talked about changing demand for skills, and how men and women differ in skills but are also rewarded differently for these skills. Ivanković Knežević gave an overview of the European Commission’s agenda for addressing social inequalities across the life-course, highlighting policies such as the EU child and youth guarantees.

Research by DIAL researchers was presented and discussed in the parallel sessions. These sessions contained summary presentations from the various DIAL projects as well as paper presentations concentrating on inequalities across the life-course. The presentations covered the whole human lifespan: from prenatal and postnatal maternal smoking to income inequality in mortality. There were a total of fourteen parallel sessions that focused on the main themes of the DIAL projects: child development, educational inequalities, labour market inequalities, intergenerational transmission of advantages, gender inequalities, LGBTIQ+ discrimination, and unequal ageing.

The final conference had the great pleasure to welcome stakeholder discussants to many of the sessions. Discussants from the European Commission, European Trade Union Confederation, OECD, European Parliamentary Research Service, Eurochild, and COFACE Families Europe were invited to hear about the recent research produced in DIAL and to give their insights into how this fits into their work and what knowledge is needed from the policy maker’s point of view. Amongst other themes, these discussants highlighted that, according to Eurobarometer 2017 data, the majority of Europeans perceive income inequality to be too high and would also like their governments to do something about this, and that inequalities in life expectancy are an important question to address in order to ensure dignity in ageing.

As the world is still in the middle of the pandemic, meeting and exchanging ideas with colleagues in person seemed to delight many of the on-site participants. On behalf of the DIAL organizing team, we thank all the conference participants for their active input. Please also note that many of the papers presented at the conference can be found on the DIAL website. Recordings of many of the presentations will also be made available soon.

The full conference programme is available here (updated 19 October 2021)