S7.1 Older workers in an extended working life
Chair: Tale Hellevik
Extending working life (EWL) has become a priority in many countries. Authorities across OECD have implemented social policies promoting later exit from work. In this symposium, we aim to investigate recent changes in ageing working populations, and possible effects of increasing numbers of workers staying in the work force into higher ages. We are looking into some of the possible consequences of EWL policies for individuals and for companies. -For individuals consequences may diverge in different professions and jobs, and for those preferring late exit and those preferring or needing early exit. What are the consequences for health, financial situation, family and voluntary work?- For companies consequences may influence productivity, costs, risks of having to dismiss more seniors or avoiding hiring senior applicants. Policies for extended working life tend to treat older workers in a uniform manner, ignoring great diversities and inequalities. The symposium will reflect on policies to prevent increasing inequalities.
S7.1.1 Raising average retirement age – the likelihood of unintended consequences,
NOVA, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Background: Raising average retirement age may have unintended consequences. Here we look at possible side effects of later workforce exit for volunteering, care provision and health among older individuals. Methods: Using The Norwegian study on life course, ageing and generation (2007/08), and a sample of 62-69 year olds, we compare working and retired individuals (N=1300) in relation to our three areas of interest, to reflect on the possible impact of longer working lives. Results: Extensive volunteering is uncommon among 62-69 year olds today, similarly with care provided to family members (except grandchildren). There is either little difference between workers and pensioners, or working individuals contribute more. Pensioners have in average poorer health than workers do. This is probably primarily due to selection bias, while early retirement more often seems to have positive than negative effects on individuals’ health. Conclusion: Extending working lives in Norway seems to pose limited risk of adversely affecting the volume of voluntary work or family care carried out by older individuals today. The effect of increasing retirement age for older individuals’ health will depend on the groups concerned. Whereas late retirement will have positive health effects for some, others will benefit from retiring early.
S7.1.2 Outdated Older Workers or Biopolitics? On Swedish Pension Policy Under Neoliberal Societal Change
Karlstad University, Sweden
Background: Policy on extended working life has focused on individuals, and described older workers’ current retirement trends as outdated. Based on the debate on extended working life taking shape in a neoliberal social context and the fact that pension systems not only provide income security but also construct social relations, this paper problematises the debate on extended working life in Sweden and locates its role in the neoliberal development. Method: The empirical material consists of Swedish pension policies during the period 1974–2013. Theoretically, policies are not understood as neutral, but are assumed to be based on a narrow description of the problems they aim to solve.
Results: Based in the idea of heterogeneity among older workers, the policies of the 1970s identified the groups whose pension scheme needed to be improved. In 2013, however, a homogenous approach was applied, arguing that there was a need for new, more updated retirement behaviour. The results show that the debate on extended working life upholds a neoliberal view of the (older) individual. Conclusion: Policies on extended working life contribute to a normalization of social insecurity and, as such, constitute building blocks in neoliberal governing.
S7.1.3 Extended Working Life: gender differences among precarious and secure workers: a life-course approach
Aine Ni Leime
National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Background: Policies designed to extend working life are being introduced in most western countries, including Ireland, following a neoliberal policy agenda. Such policies include increasing state pension age and they are typically undifferentiated, assuming a generic ‘adult worker’. Yet work-life trajectories are profoundly differentiated by gender and by occupation, resulting in widely varying socio-economic and health outcomes when workers approach traditional retirement age. Method: This paper draws on qualitative data from a study with a purposively-designed sample of 60 workers in three different types of occupations – 30 men and 30 women aged 45 + in Ireland. Teachers, academics, and men and women in low-paid, physically demanding work participated in the research. Data are analysed using a lifecourse approach. Results: The use of a lifecourse analytical approach highlights the fact that certain groups of workers, notably men and women in low-paid precarious, physically-demanding jobs and some women in secure jobs are already disadvantaged and are likely to experience significant exacerbated disadvantage due to the introduction of EWL policies. Conclusion: There is a need to critically reflect on the efficacy and fairness of extended working life policies. Consideration should be given to modifying these policies in order to prevent increasing inequalities.
S7.1.4 Occupational variation in the ageing of the older workforce in England
Swansea University, UK
Background: As populations age they become more heterogeneous. However, the older workers are often seen homogenous. Yet this group is ageing and becoming more diverse. In this presentation we will look at occupational differences in the ageing of the older workforce in England. Methods: The data are drawn from the 2002/03 and 2014/15 waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). The sample was restricted to those aged 50 and over who were in work (2002/3, N = 4183; 2014/5, N=3454). Results: Overall the composition of the older workforce changed between the two waves, e.g. self-employment, work stress and sedentariness. However, there were occupational differences in the rate of ageing and characteristics of the older workers. Self-employment increased more for professional and skilled occupations. There was a significant increase in the proportion of women in managerial occupations, but declines across most other groups. There was also variability in health between the two waves, e.g. increase in limiting illness for skilled trades and a decrease for others. Also, the proportion of elementary occupations who provided care almost doubled between the two waves whilst it remained stable for many other groups. Conclusion: The data show that as workforce ages it is becoming more diverse. Hence, a one-size-fits-all approach to policy making for this group will not work. Instead, greater attention needs to be paid to occupational differences in the older workforce.
S7.1. 5 Possible side effects of raised mandatory retirement age in Norway
Per Erik Solem
NOVA, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Background: In Norway, extending working life is politically pursued by various measures, most recently by the increase in mandatory retirement age from 70 to 72 in 2015. The change was opposed by ‘all’ employers’ associations, but not unanimously by labour unions. The opposition saw risks of negative side effects, like companies becoming stuck with incompetent older workers all up to the age of 72, or that employers increasingly would avoid hiring senior applicants. Method: We tested some of the feared side effects of the increase of mandatory retirement age in surveys among top managers in 2016 and in 2017. Representative samples of 600 managers in private companies with more than 10 employees were interviewed. Results: Only a minority of managers reported or expected negative side effects. Eight out of ten reported no problems with incompetent seniors clinging to their job, and seven out of ten claimed to ‘not at all’, being more hesitant to hire seniors. However, differences between industries are substantial. Conclusion: Mangers tend to be less fearful of older workers than as indicated by their associations’ objections to raising mandatory retirement age. The adverse risks of raising mandatory retirement age seem exaggerated.