Extended working life policies : international gender and health perspectives
Léime, Áine Ní
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Across OECD countries there has been a concerted push over the past decade and a half to get older people to delay retirement. This is in contrast to the earlier post-war period, when organisations, social partners and sometimes governments responded to an overall decrease in demand for labour by promoting early retirement/exit. This recent change has been influenced by demographic projections of population ageing and by the advocacy of international organisations such as the World Bank and the OECD. Such a policy focus has been presented positively in terms of helping to support extended working lives, and giving people greater choice over working longer. At an EU level, a positive development has been legislation to protect individuals from age discrimination, a move that began earlier in the USA. However, as this excellent volume convincingly argues, much of the policy in this area is inadequate, treats older people as a homogenous group, and does not consider the gendered consequences of pressures to work longer. Writing in the UK context, one does not have to look very far to see how contentious pressures to extend working lives are. A recent survey has suggested that the prospect of extended working lives has caused significant concerns among the adult population. In the political field, one of the debates in the UK general election of 2020 was the treatment of women born in the 1950s who have been affected by rapidly rising state pension ages. In 2010 state pension age for women was 60, but this had risen to 65 in 2019 (matching male pension age) and will rise to 66 in 2020 (and beyond this in later years). The ‘Women Against State Pension Age Increases’ movement has argued that female state pension age increases were poorly communicated to the public. As a result, some women made financial plans based on a state pension of 60, and now find themselves out of work and having to wait until 66 for a pension. The impact of financial pressures to work longer have arguably been particularly acute for women, given that women often amass lower pensions than men but are increasingly finding themselves single or remarried in older age. Such changes illustrate why this book on gender and extended working lives is so timely and so important.
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