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Author: Emma Garavaglia

This chapter is the product of a qualitative research based on 15 in-depth interviews with upper-level managers in Italy who lost their job when they were in their 50s. The research aims to contribute to an understanding of social processes that shape the lived experience of attempted transitions from unemployment among older workers. Drawing on the interview materials, it shows how age discrimination and common discourses about ageing and work in the contemporary Italian labour market limit the options available to older workers to successfully revive their career. Being discriminated against on account of age was described by interviewees as a frustrating experience that led them to construct a negative stereotyped character that they used to describe older workers and to distance themselves from this identity. Consistent with neoliberalism, work-related problems that may occur when one experiences late-career job loss were attributed by interviewees to an assumed decrease in the usefulness of workers as they age, and the responsibility for finding a solution to these problems was laid entirely on individuals’ shoulders.

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More people are extending their paid working lives either through necessity or by choice in the context of increasingly precarious labour markets. As a result, the importance of job transitions in older age has grown significantly. This book goes beyond aggregated statistics to explore the lived experiences of older people attempting to make job transitions in European countries. The opening two chapters in Part I explore the changing historical and policy context, and this discussion is supported by statistics on changing job transitions in 16 countries. It is argued that job transitions today must be understood in the context of neoliberal responsibilisation, which shifts responsibility onto the older person to ‘choose’ to take whatever job opportunities are available to them. Country chapters in Part II draw on qualitative research to examine how older people seek to navigate a range of transitions in this context, often under adverse conditions. These chapters cover job redeployment/mobility in the UK and Sweden, temporary employment in Belgium, unemployment in Italy, employment beyond pension age in Germany and the UK, and transitions to retirement in Ireland. The concluding chapter in Part III discusses the findings and contribution of the book in light of arguments about neoliberal responsibilisation, drawing together qualitative evidence from across the book as a whole. This book makes an important contribution to debates on employment and retirement in older age and is essential reading for scholars from social gerontology, management, sociology, social policy and public administration.

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Author: Anna Hokema

Divorced women in old age have long been considered a particularly vulnerable group, due foremostly to a lack of sufficient financial resources. Based on a qualitative analysis of ten semi-structured interviews, this chapter explores the experience of divorced women who have not re-partnered and are working past pension age in Germany and the United Kingdom. The chapter particularly focuses on the women’s subjective reasons for their continued employment. In their narratives, the long-term influence of the female homemaker model becomes evident. However, divorce in midlife is experienced as a major turning point. The women re-enter the labour market, individual career and pension planning becomes prominent and employment past pension age is portrayed as an important way to independently earn an adequate income for old age. From a more general angle, the interrelationship between life courses, gendered welfare regimes and later-life employment become clear.

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More people are extending their paid working lives either through necessity or by choice in the context of increasingly precarious labour markets. As a result, the importance of job transitions in older age has grown significantly. This book goes beyond aggregated statistics to explore the lived experiences of older people attempting to make job transitions in European countries. The opening two chapters in Part I explore the changing historical and policy context, and this discussion is supported by statistics on changing job transitions in 16 countries. It is argued that job transitions today must be understood in the context of neoliberal responsibilisation, which shifts responsibility onto the older person to ‘choose’ to take whatever job opportunities are available to them. Country chapters in Part II draw on qualitative research to examine how older people seek to navigate a range of transitions in this context, often under adverse conditions. These chapters cover job redeployment/mobility in the UK and Sweden, temporary employment in Belgium, unemployment in Italy, employment beyond pension age in Germany and the UK, and transitions to retirement in Ireland. The concluding chapter in Part III discusses the findings and contribution of the book in light of arguments about neoliberal responsibilisation, drawing together qualitative evidence from across the book as a whole. This book makes an important contribution to debates on employment and retirement in older age and is essential reading for scholars from social gerontology, management, sociology, social policy and public administration.

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This chapter explores expectations of the transition to retirement for older women workers in Ireland in the context of policies introduced in recent years to raise state pension age comparatively quickly. It focuses on the retirement plans of workers in two very different occupations – teaching and home care work. Data from interviews with ten women in each occupation are analyzed, using a life course perspective. Both teachers and healthcare workers disagree with the proposed increase in state pension age. Workers face very different options at retirement; teachers are protected by having typically stable employment trajectories with good pay and generous occupational pensions and most can retire early on full pension. By contrast, healthcare workers may need to work for longer because of disrupted employment trajectories, lower pay and low or no occupational pensions, leaving them dependent on the state pension. An increase in state pension age is a blunt policy instrument that exacerbates existing relative disadvantage for home care workers. The policy implications are discussed.

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More people are extending their paid working lives either through necessity or by choice in the context of increasingly precarious labour markets. As a result, the importance of job transitions in older age has grown significantly. This book goes beyond aggregated statistics to explore the lived experiences of older people attempting to make job transitions in European countries. The opening two chapters in Part I explore the changing historical and policy context, and this discussion is supported by statistics on changing job transitions in 16 countries. It is argued that job transitions today must be understood in the context of neoliberal responsibilisation, which shifts responsibility onto the older person to ‘choose’ to take whatever job opportunities are available to them. Country chapters in Part II draw on qualitative research to examine how older people seek to navigate a range of transitions in this context, often under adverse conditions. These chapters cover job redeployment/mobility in the UK and Sweden, temporary employment in Belgium, unemployment in Italy, employment beyond pension age in Germany and the UK, and transitions to retirement in Ireland. The concluding chapter in Part III discusses the findings and contribution of the book in light of arguments about neoliberal responsibilisation, drawing together qualitative evidence from across the book as a whole. This book makes an important contribution to debates on employment and retirement in older age and is essential reading for scholars from social gerontology, management, sociology, social policy and public administration.

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This chapter explores older worker job redeployment in a UK local government authority. It presents qualitative evidence from interviews with five HR managers, nine line managers and 37 older workers. Facing significant austerity budget cuts, staff numbers were cut using voluntary retirement/severance schemes, and job redeployment/reconfiguration was used extensively to move people to areas where there was a perceived need for their labour. HR managers drew on a narrative of ‘appeals to freedom’ identified in the neoliberal responsibilisation literature. Redeployment was presented as an opportunity for people of all ages to adapt their employment in response to their changing needs and developmental preferences, for those willing to be flexible and take responsibility for managing their circumstances. However, there was little evidence of real opportunity for older workers, who sometimes ended up participating in their own marginalization as a form of ‘psychological reactance’. It is argued that under conditions of neoliberalism, job redeployment is likely to be focused on meeting the perceived needs of the organization rather than the worker, and it ends up magnifying older worker marginalization that occurs as a result of underlying ageism.

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This chapter sets the context for the book. Drawing on the governmentality perspective, it argues that job transitions in older age must be understood in the context of a wider trend of ‘neoliberal responsibilisation’. It becomes the responsibility of individuals to be ‘active’, entrepreneurial individuals and take whatever paid work opportunities are available to them until they are in a financial position to retire. Jobs held by older individuals are not always sustainable in the long term and the need to change jobs in order to continue working therefore becomes even more important. Examining the situation across 16 OECD countries, the chapter explores welfare and pension changes that increase the need for continued employment, alongside OECD statistics on changes in job transitions between 2000 and 2019.

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European Experiences in a Neoliberal Era

More people are extending their working lives through necessity or choice in the context of increasingly precarious labour markets and neoliberalism. This book goes beyond the aggregated statistics to explore the lived experiences of older people attempting to make job transitions.

Drawing on the voices of older workers in a diverse range of European countries, leading scholars explore job redeployment and job mobility, temporary employment, unemployment, employment beyond pension age and transitions into retirement.

This book makes a major contribution and will be essential reading within a range of disciplines, including social gerontology, management, sociology and social policy.

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This concluding chapter discusses the findings and contribution of the book. It first elaborates on why the concept of bridge jobs used extensively in previous research is problematic for the purpose of making sense of job transitions. It then draws on qualitative evidence from the country chapters to explore key themes from the book. It looks at why job transitions in older age must be understood in the context of neoliberal responsibilisation and ‘appeals to freedom’. The chapter then explores ‘psychological reactance’ as a means of understanding older workers’ job transitions. Next, it looks in more depth at the constraints on individuals exercising control over the transitions they make and the inequalities that result. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the theoretical and empirical contributions of the book to the literature, and how it can inform future research on job transitions in older age.

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