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  • Author or Editor: Mariska van der Horst x
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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 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 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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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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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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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 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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