S1.1 Between Work and Retirement
Chair: Kirsi Lumme-Sandt
Ageing workforce is facing multiple challenges in present societies. Population ageing is tackled by prolonging working careers. Pathways to retirement are under the major changes in many western countries and they are not as predictable as they used to be.
Structural change in many industrial fields and economic recessions have made careers fragile especially in the end of working life. Older workers are moved into early retirement or made redundant as part of cooperation negotiations. Ageism in working places makes finding a new job difficult for over 50 year old people. At the same time, prevailing rhetoric emphasises longer working careers and life-long learning. Older workers might face a situation where their own desires, society’s expectations and reality are in contradiction.
In this symposium we shed light to this phenomenon especially from older workers’ own perspectives.
S1.1.1 Too old to work, too young to retire: Australian experiences of older workers
University of Melbourne, Australia
Older Australian workers who classified themselves as ‘underemployed’ were interviewed (n= 120) about their experiences of working life. Four orientations were identified, including individuators who wanted a better work-life balance, resisters who could not imagine a life without work, those jaded by work and those who had no choice but to work. Perceived attitudes towards older workers included rusty and no longer desirable as workers; invisible and unseen by employers in terms of value, training and promotion; and threatening toward younger managers. In these orientations, attributed by others, the perception of older workers was found to be both gendered and dependent on socio economic status and ageist stereotyping. Findings are discussed in the light of the tension between work and life-course identities and the commodification of life-time as well as everyday time. The findings throw a critical light on some of the myths associated with work as the solution to a long life.
S1.1.2 Cracks in the Mirror: Redundancy as a point of identity renegotiation at 50+
Pirjo Nikander, Elisa Virkola, Kirsi Lumme-Sandt, Jari Luomanen, Clas-Håkan Nygård, Anna Siukola
University of Tampere, Finland
Building on the variety of qualitative data sets generated during the “Towards a Two-Speed Finland?” research project, in Finland, this paper looks at how being dropped out of the workforce affects people’s everyday lives, notion of self-worth, and renegotiations of “who am I now?”. The paper zooms in on normative notions of the age appropriate ‘right place’ at a given moment, and on how work-centered ideals concerning the architecture, timings and various everyday scenes and settings are re-shuffled with unemployment. The paper also brings home the fact that longitudinal qualitative methods provides means to investigate such dynamics between persons’ everyday life experiences and societal macro-cultural discourses of work. The method is in particular suited for the study of temporal durées, life-time changes and transitions.
More specifically, the paper focuses on people’s accounts on work, time, space, agency and temporal rhythms. It shows the detail in which norms, moralities and values related to work, unemployment and retirement both frame the lives and discourse of people, but are also challenges. Analysis on concrete, lived-through ruptures in respect to the expected age-order help to center-stage the existing and unfolding tensions and alternative discourses of work and socio-temporal order.
S1.1.3 Doing retiring – the social practices of transiting into retirement and the gendered distribution of transitional risks
Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany
With the ageing of the ‘Baby Boomer’ cohort, more and more adults are transiting into retirement. At the same time, institutional retirement pathways have changed (cf. Calvo et al., 2017) – new ones have evolved (e.g. bridge employment), others have been abolished (e.g. statutory retirement age; Phillispon et al., 2016). This paper focuses on the retirement transition itself and asks how older adults organize, experience and ‘do’ retiring. Viewing social life as a nexus of social practices (Schatzki, 2002), and retirement as a significant change in these practices, puts emphasis on the processual nature of retirement and the ‘in-between’ working and later life. Empirically, quantitative data from the German Survey of Transitions and Old Age Potentials are contrasted with a qualitative longitudinal study that follows 15 older Germans throughout their retirement process. Results show that ‘doing retiring’ differs depending upon a) retirement trajectories, b) former transition experiences and the cumulation of transitions around retiring, as well as c) family life and social ties. These conditional factors may be viewed against the backdrop of gendered life-courses (Carr et al., 2016), making ‘doing retiring’ a crucial, yet underdeveloped dimension of ‘doing gender’ (West & Zimmermann, 1987).