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Author: Chiara Giordano

Home care service providers have been considerably affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, their internal organisation has undergone important changes, including in terms of time schedules, to adapt to the needs of the older population and those of workers. In most cases, they had to reduce the provision of services, either because care workers – the majority of whom are women – were no longer available to cover the shifts, or because families had cancelled the services. In other cases, they had to meet increased demand. The most dramatic consequences were borne by female care workers, who had to combine working time adjustments with family obligations. Drawing from the material collected before and after the impact of the pandemic in Belgium, which includes interviews with public and private home care providers, this article explores the consequences that time adjustments had on frontline care workers and on the organisations themselves.

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The COVID-19 pandemic poses specific risks to vulnerable population groups. Informal carers for older adults are especially at risk of increased strain, as support from social networks and professional care services is no longer available or in short supply. Already before the pandemic, caring was unequally distributed within societies, with women and people in lower socio-economic status groups bearing a higher risk of caring strain. In this article, we propose a conceptual framework of (unequal) caring strain during the pandemic. We then summarise the state of empirical research, suggest questions for future studies and outline implications for social policy.

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Sleep has been recognised as compromised in dementia care. This study aims to represent the experiences and needs of informal carers via sleep-related accounts. Retrospective interviews were conducted with 20 carers concerning sleep changes across the trajectory of dementia care. Key interactive narratives were around: ‘sleep as my sacrifice’; tensions between identities of being a ‘sleeper’ versus ‘guardian’; and ‘sleep as a luxury’. Maintaining healthy sleep and preferable sleep practices is challenging while balancing the responsibilities of dementia-related care. Acknowledging sleep as a sociological practice enables a greater understanding of carers’ nuanced experience and support needs.

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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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