Posts Tagged 'Ageing'

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.

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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’

How we learn to be old and other thoughts on age and ageing

With only a month to go until The New Age of Ageing publishes we’re all getting quite excited at Policy Press as we prepare the book to go to press.

In the meantime authors Caroline Lodge, Eileen Carnell and Marianne Colemancan have been busy posting their thoughts and insights on the subject of the book, how it has informed their thoughts on and personal experiences of age and ageing, over on the Bookword blog.

In case you haven’t caught the blogs already we thought we’d share a few tasty snippets with you in the excepts below…

Learning to be old (first published in July on Bookword)

There are three authors of New Age of Ageing. Caroline Lodge asked the other two to reflect on what writing the book meant to each of them. This month, on her return from holiday, Eileen writes about three important contradictions, conundrums and challenges about ageing. Continue reading ‘How we learn to be old and other thoughts on age and ageing’


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