Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - GENDOWL (Policies to extend working life: implications for gender, ageing and precarious work.)

The main aim of the project is to investigate the gender implications of policies designed to extend working life (EWL) in the United States (US) and Ireland for older workers in different occupations, using a qualitative, lifecourse approach. EWL is an issue of pressing policy concern in the context of population ageing and anticipated increased pension costs. The project adds to the scientific literature by addressing the relative lack of qualitative lifecourse research designed to analyse older worker’s experiences of EWL and how pension systems and EWL reforms can lead to gender-differentiated pension outcomes.

Research questions include: how are men and women differentially affected by policies that extend working life? What is the likely impact of increasing pension age on the health and economic well-being of various types of older workers? How do European and US policies and experiences in this area compare? The project involves: a comparative policy analysis in the US and Ireland was conducted using a gendered political economy of ageing approach; literature review on policy and research was conducted; an innovative research instrument was designed; work-life history interviews were conducted with 120 workers, 60 in each country across three different types of occupation; low-paid precarious work involving physical labour; secure sedentary public sector employment and a professional career. Thematic and lifecourse analysis of the data was conducted and is ongoing.

Scientific Dissemination: A total of nine peer-reviewed papers/book chapters have been submitted for publication. Two papers and three book chapters have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Two papers have been accepted subject to minor revisions and another is currently under review. Thirteen papers were presented and three symposia co-organised at prestigious international conferences. Knowledge transfer: Two seminars, one on Irish policy and on US policy and findings were given by the MSCF in CWRU in April 2015 and April, 2016. She gave a seminar in April, 2017 and ran a Qualitative Lifecourse Methodology Training Workshop on 14 July, 2017 for students and researchers at NUI, Galway.

Main results: A gender analysis of findings indicates that older women tend to have poorer working conditions, to earn less and to expect to receive lower pensions than men in both the US and Ireland. EWL policy, unless modified, is likely to exacerbate existing gender inequalities. The intersection of race and socio-economic status is associated with differential pension outcomes. Both men and women in low-paid, physically demanding work are more likely than those in sedentary work to have chronic ill-health making it difficult for them to continue to work after normal state pension age. Workers (both men and women) who leave school early have trajectories involving a series of precarious low-paid jobs leading to poor pensions, providing support for the notion of cumulative dis/advantage. Women have additional disadvantages if they are ‘trailing spouses’ or have been out of the workforce engaged in unpaid caring work. This is particularly so in the US where there are few family friendly policies such as care credits or paid maternity leave. In Ireland, in recent years, there are family friendly policies including paid maternity leave and pension credits for engaging in unpaid care work which helps offset some of the disadvantage experienced by women. However, recent pension policies that link the contributory state pension more closely to paid employment are likely to further disadvantage women. Occupations previously regarded as secure are increasingly likely to be insecure. When older workers lose their jobs, it is more difficult for them to find employment due to age discrimination in recruitment. Having higher SES or a spouse with high SES can sometimes protect against adverse impacts of precarious work.

Key Conclusions:
• One-size-fits-all EWL policies are likely to have adverse effects on those in low-paid physically-demanding jobs and those in precarious work.
• EWL policies should be modified to allow for older workers in physically-demanding jobs to retire at or before traditional retirement age.
• Working past retirement age should be a choice, not a one-size-fits-all policy imposed on all workers
• From a gender perspective, it is important to maintain or increase the level of state pensions, since women are heavily dependent on them and likely to remain so.

Societal Impact: The project has provided significant new knowledge of the potential of EWL policies for exacerbating existing inequality for particular groups of older workers, namely women, those engaged in physically demanding work and those in precarious employment. It points to the potential of EWL to lead to exacerbated inequalities based on gender, occupation and quality of employment. It is very timely and signals the need for modifications to EWL pensions and employment policy to avoid this deepening of inequality. This has potential implications for policy across Europe both now and in the future. The project has already had a significant impact among policy stakeholders, on the scientific community and in the media. Four newspaper articles, two online articles and a blog were published on the project and an interview featuring the MSCF as an emerging scholar at the American Sociological Association’s Section on Aging and the Lifecourse newsletter. Policy events: A policy workshop for stakeholders in the US was conducted in November, 2016 at the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University involving 35 stakeholders and a panel discussion. A very successful policy workshop for key stakeholders was held at the NUI, Merrion Square, Dublin in January, 2018. Key stakeholders from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, employer body (IBEC), major trade unions (SIPTU and the INTO), older people’s organisations (Age Action, Active Retirement Ireland and the National Women’s Council of Ireland) participated. This event received extensive media coverage. A policy briefing document will be sent directly to these key stakeholders and to European policy-makers. A Marie Curie Open day will be held in conjunction with a COST conference in November 2018 and policy briefings will be shared with European policy–makers such as DG Employment and DG Justice and Eurofound at a COST policy workshop in March, 2019 to maximise dissemination among both scientific and policy audiences. Links to GENDOWL outputs will be uploaded on the COST website and to a page on the project on the new ICSG website to further facilitate dissemination. under development. In general, the leadership of COST Action IS1409, ‘Gender Health and Extended Working Life’ has deepened and broadened the impact of GENDOWL in scientific and policy communities and attracted leading experts to develop joint papers for the project.

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Life Sciences
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