Archive for the 'Ageing' Category

One size does not fit all: the problem of extended working life policy

Áine Ní Léime and Debra Street, co-editors of Gender, ageing and extended working life, launching today at the British Society of Gerontology conference, discuss problematic extended working life policies, and their potential consequences for both women and men in later age. 

Debra Street

Áine Ní Léime

“How can affluent countries “afford” pensions for ageing populations?

Some policymakers prefer one answer—people should simply work longer, thus cost less. Increased longevity makes policies to extend working lives appear logical and seem potentially benign.

Favoured initiatives range from increasing state pension ages, requiring higher/more frequent worker pension contributions, eliminating mandatory retirement, and introducing anti-age discrimination legislation. They run concurrently with the broader neoliberal agenda of pension privatisation, making individuals (rather than employers and governments) more responsible for providing their own pensions or working to much later ages.

“Extended working life policies focus almost exclusively on reducing state pension costs…”

Such policies are highly problematic and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the complexities of current employment arrangements and future job markets. Extended working life policies focus almost exclusively on reducing state pension costs, with scant attention to existing gendered differences across the life course, whether associated with adequate pay and flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities, working longer, or amassing pensions.

The upshot: women and men, unsurprisingly, would fare quite differently.

 

Back to the future: work ’til we die?

Workers in physically demanding and/or stressful jobs such as construction, cleaning or caregiving are likelier to have chronic health conditions or to be worn out by work as they approach the traditional state pension age, usually 65. Many started work at younger ages than the more advantageously employed, so they may already have spent 45 or more years at work by age 65.

Increasing state pension age requires them to work longer still. This punitive measure ignores their experience of already extended working lives, albeit at the younger end of the adult life course. It is unfair to deprive them of the choice to stop or work longer.

Because gender norms designate women as the primary providers of unpaid care for children and others, many have employment histories punctuated by breaks in paid work or long spells of low- paid, part-time employment to juggle work and family responsibilities.

Demanding work to older ages and greater pension contributions to qualify for minimum and maximum state contributory pensions makes it more difficult for women to get a full state pension and greatly increases their risk of poverty in old age.

Extended working life policies assume demand for older workers. Yet little evidence suggests that is true. Research on age discrimination in employment shows that jobs for older workers are typically scarce and poorly paid, if unemployment happens as it did during the recent recession.

Older women seeking employment face the “double whammy” of ageism and sexism, rendering women ”socially older” than comparably aged men, making re-employment more difficult. Precarious work is growing in all countries and, while women traditionally predominated in the precarity, men are increasingly relegated to non-standard work.

Many women and all precarious workers have episodic pension contribution patterns that make poverty in old age more likely. Finally, privatising pensions is especially detrimental to women’s pension provision, since they are typically in lower paid jobs that make private pension contributions unaffordable.

 

Where do we go from here?

The way forward is not obvious. There is a need for more thoughtful, flexible policies, if women, workers in physically demanding and/or stressful jobs, or those in precarious employment are to be expected to work longer.

To understate, we are not particularly optimistic that such adequately enlightened policies will be enacted.

“An adequate universal citizen’s income is one policy refinement that could offer a genuine choice to people nearing retirement age.”

Working longer offers a welcome option for some workers in rewarding, interesting, physically undemanding occupations, but it should not be a requirement for all workers. Calls for an adequate universal citizen’s income is one policy refinement that could offer a genuine choice to people nearing retirement age.

Since women and precariously employed individuals are more likely to depend on safety-net state pensions, a citizen’s income would benefit them most. Unfortunately, debating the merits of citizens’ incomes does not implement them and evidence of policy appetites for such proposals is disheartening.

It seems obvious that the fragility of labour markets for workers of all ages should give policymakers pause before assuming (as they seem to have done so far) that rising pension costs can be stemmed by unilaterally extending working life for all. Such policies will inevitably fall far short of expectations, given that they ignore real experiences of working lives shaped by gender and other work/life circumstances.

‘One-size-fits-all’ extended working life policies—undifferentiated for women and men, for physically demanding work and white collar occupations, for the precariously and the securely employed—are clearly neither benign, nor logical, nor capable of meeting the varied economic needs of ageing individuals.

Gender, ageing and extended working life edited by Áine Ní Léime et al. is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £60.00.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Care and caring: challenge, crisis or opportunity?

SusanMYeandle

Sue Yeandle

As the first issue of the International Journal of Care and Caring publishes, Sue Yeandle, Editor-in-Chief, highlights the global space that care now occupies and introduces the journal as a new forum where world-class knowledge about care, caring and carers can be shared.

Issue 1 of the International Journal of Care and Caring is free to access on Ingenta until 30 April.

“From Nairobi to Tokyo, Sydney to Bogota, Montreal to Stockholm and Gdansk to Glasgow – and beyond – care is more visible than ever, and an issue of growing importance all over the world. It is central to human life and relations. It underpins the world’s health, employment and welfare systems. It affects every family and human being on the planet.

“In all its horror, glory and daily realities, care touches us at every level.”

Continue reading ‘Care and caring: challenge, crisis or opportunity?’

Globalisation and our views on ageing

The world is now a much smaller place, with more and more people choosing to study or work abroad and, consequently, creating transnational families and connections. In this blog post, Martin Hyde, co-author of Ageing and globalisation, discusses how this increase in globalisation has affected conventional views of ageing.

martin-hyde

Martin Hyde

Sometime last year my parents called me to say that they wouldn’t be able to meet up on the coming weekend as they had to go and look after my brother’s kids.

Nothing unusual about this, as more and more retirees find themselves called upon to perform grandparenting duties in times of need – in this case my brother had to travel for work and my sister-in-law was not feeling well.

What made this somewhat more unusual was that my parents were in France at the time and my brother lives in Australia. So, they duly cut their stay in France short, bought return tickets to Australia, flew back to the UK packed their bags and went out to Australia for 3 weeks (my brother had had to go to China and South Korea).

“Wherever we look…we seem to see evidence of the increasing globalisation.”

Unusual but not unique. As families become increasingly transnational more and more people are drawn into these long-distance family and caring relationships. But this is not limited to family relationships. Wherever we look, from travel and transport to economics and the media, we seem to see evidence of the increasing globalisation. Continue reading ‘Globalisation and our views on ageing’

Age: the topic that neither Clinton nor Trump dare address

 

kate_demedeiros_taskforce_may52015

Kate de Medeiros

There is one major topic in the American presidential election that neither candidate – nor the media for that matter – have dared to touch upon: age.

Kate de Medeiros, author of The short guide to aging and gerontology, asks ‘why?’

Age – specifically older age – has been conspicuously absent as a line of personal attack between the candidates, as a demographic target of would-be voters, and as an articulated position regarding health care and pension policies.

Don’t get me wrong. In some respects, I am glad to see that the ageist rhetoric which has clouded other U.S. elections hasn’t appeared this time, at least not explicitly.

Perhaps because the two candidates are so close in age (Trump is 70 years old; Clinton, 68), or because the oldest people in the American baby boomer cohort (those born between 1946 and 1964) are now 70 themselves, we’re not hearing whispers of dementia like in the 2008 election. Then, the 71-year-old John McCain, running against a 47-year-old Barack Obama, was often referred to by contenders and the media as ‘confused’, ‘out of touch’, and lacking vigor and energy.

Of course, chronological age alone says very little about a person or their functional abilities. Although Trump has repeatedly stated that Hilary Clinton ‘doesn’t have the look’ or the ‘stamina’ to be president, it’s unclear if his remarks were based on her gender and a double standard of ‘beauty’, on her age, or something entirely different.

Continue reading ‘Age: the topic that neither Clinton nor Trump dare address’

Age-blaming and the EU Referendum

In today’s guest blog, author Caroline Lodge looks behind the post-Brexit headline ‘age-blaming’ to reveal a different and more nuanced story behind voter choices…

Caroline Lodge

Caroline Lodge

Age-blaming is the practice of blaming older people for social, economic and political problems.

In popular discourse the problem of the old is that they take up too many resources, take more than their fair share of benefits, block beds in hospital, wont move out of their large houses and are responsible for taking Britain out of the EU. This post explores what lies behind the age-blaming that followed the EU referendum result. Continue reading ‘Age-blaming and the EU Referendum’

As pension ages rise, what are our prospects for working longer?

In March of this year the UK government began its long-term review of state pension ages, with a number of commentators predicting large increases in the age of eligibility. David Lain, author of Reconstructing Retirement, sets the context for this review by considering wider changes to retirement policy.

David Lain 4It is commonly said that retirement is changing, with people increasingly expecting to do some form of paid work after ‘retirement’ age.

Sara Rix from AARP, for example, reports perceptions from the US that Baby Boomers will ‘reinvent and/or revolutionise retirement… they will… combine work and leisure in new and more rewarding ways’.

Increasing employment

In reality, however, it is arguably governments that most want us to ‘rethink’ retirement. In my view UK and US governments are actually seeking to reconstruct retirement, by increasing employment at age 65+ and dissolving the notion fixed retirement ages. They are doing this in two ways. Continue reading ‘As pension ages rise, what are our prospects for working longer?’

Theorising and understanding grandparents: why now?

Evolving demographic, economic and social contexts across the globe are creating diverse societies. As a result, grandparenting has become a more commonly experienced and important familial role and one that is more varied and distinctive than it was 50 years ago.  Within these contexts individuals are doing grandparenting in very different ways. These doing’s (or the practices of grandparenting) are strongly influenced by global trends, cultural norms and welfare policies but are also cross cut by individual circumstances and social inequalities including gender, age, martial status, class and access to material resources.

Contemporary Grandparenting, a new book from The Policy Press, explores and emphasizes the interconnectedness of these social-cultural structures and norms, and the practices of grandparents. Some of these trends and responses are explored below:

Ageing and fertility

Increasing mortality and decreasing fertility rates characterize contemporary demographics in both the West and developing nations to varying extents, creating more dynamic and variable family relationships and care patterns.  Media commentators have a tendency to interpret these changes as being about ageing population crises. China, for example faces what Branigan defines as a ‘timebomb’; it is ageing, and at the same time there are reportedly fewer younger people who are able to or willing to care for their elderly family members.  In the UK, this crisis has been described as a significant contemporary economic threat.

However, children and grandchildren have also been found to rely upon their older and ageing grandparents for financial support and other informal forms of care. Part One of Contemporary Grandparenting, nuances this debate by revealing that grandparents are central to supporting the increased participation of women in the workplace, but that this is strongly influenced by welfare policy contexts, which must also be taken into consideration.

Changing ‘family’ structures

‘Family’ is changing; the prevalence of marriage breakdown, divorce and separation, (considered particularly problematic in the UK, the US and parts of Northern Europe, but less so in China and Asia and some southern parts of Europe) has differing implications for how intergenerational relationships are negotiated and interpreted.

The impact of divorce also has varying outcomes in relation to grandparenting; grandparents have been found to cause additional damage in situations of divorce, while others suggest they should have greater rights in being able to adopt grandchildren. Timonen and Doyles’ chapter, in Part Two of the book particularly nuances these arguments by revealing that grandparents make active choices about their level of involvement in the lives of their children and grandchildren and that this does not always sit comfortably with wider welfare contexts.

Global Trends

As well as increasing the importance of grandparenting in family contexts, the authors are keen to acknowledge the role of globalization in altering the family relationships that grandparenting is embedded in. As well as demographic change, societies are characterized by increased geographical mobility, changing trends in paid employment (especially including women’s participation in the labour force) and the increased uptake of communication technologies. Taken together, these trends are altering the ways in which individuals respond to their role and identities as grandparents, as several of the chapters explore.

Contemporary Grandparenting

A significant message of this essential edited collection is that grandparents often act with agency to negotiate increasingly dynamic intergenerational relationships in changing familial and social structures, playing a major role in the provision of care, maintaining and establishing well being and supporting changing families. Speaking to an interdisciplinary audience, this collection significantly brings grandparents into debates about family, welfare state, population ageing and identities.

Anna Tarrant, Contributor to Contemporary Grandparenting
Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the Open University.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates

Archives

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print.

The work on the Policy Press blog is licensed under a Creative Commons licence.