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Cher is sued for age discrimination

The Telegraph here reports that singer-actress Cher is being sued for discrimination by three former dancers who have performed as part of her stage show for a number of years.

Two dancers (male) allege race discrimination and the third, a woman aged 42, alleges age discrimination. We’ve no further details of the age claim, most of the press coverage has focused on the race aspects.

Interestingly, this article mentions both Cher’s own age (68) and her ethnic background: her father was an Armenian-American truck driver and the ancestry of her actress-model mother may have included Cherokee Indian.
I’m not quite sure why either of these are relevant unless it’s a subtle suggestion that one’s own older age and minority ethnicity make it less likely that one would discriminate on these grounds.

“Fresh, unpredictable and cutting edge”: The 80 year old winner of the John Moores Painting Prize

A couple of years ago on this blog I pondered the connection between age, work and visibility (here), and wondered whether some forms of work (such as art or writing) allowed for greater age invisibility. I picked up on Rose Wylie who at the time was 77 and had been described as an up and coming artist.

So I was delighted to hear on last Friday’s edition of BBC Radio 4 Front Row that Rose Wylie – now aged 80 – has just won a prestigious art award, the John Moores Prize. In this piece in The Telegraph, she is reported as saying: “My sort of age group don’t think about recognition, we just think about getting on with the work. This sudden interest is peculiar and it’s certainly unexpected, but it’s wonderful.” It  also reports that – rather refreshingly given the numerous ways in which older age is euphemised – she describes herself as ‘blinking old‘.

Regular readers of the blog will know that we have highlighted the (problematic) age limit of 40 applied to the Fields Medal in mathematics. In contrast to this and the Turner Prize, which excludes artists over the age of 50, the John Moores Prize, founded in 1957 and part of the Liverpool Biennial arts festival, has no upper age limit.

Sandra Penketh, director of Liverpool’s art galleries, said: “Rose’s personal story is very exciting. At 80 years old she happens to be double the average age of previous winners. Her style is fresh, unpredictable and cutting edge.” How many times have we seen those characteristics attributed to the work of someone aged 80? Will we see more linguistic associations between older age and potentiality / newness / fashion?

Age in Scotland – does the referendum tell us anything?

Throughout the closely fought campaign there was much discussion of both gender and age key dimensions in voting preferences.  Age was a particularly key dimension as the vote was extended to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time, with much made of younger tendency to the ‘Yes’ against older ‘No’ voters.  For example a specific aspect of the Yes campaign focused on “Generation Yes” asking young people to help “move their older relatives to yes“.  The picture was of course more complex, with for example, much press coverage given to a letter from young shipbuilders supporting the ‘better together’ campaign.

 In the end the answer, as we know, was No.  Reuters provides useful breakdown by both age and gender, following the trends across polls and comparing these to what is known from the final vote.  Interestingly this suggests that “the Yes campaign lost ground across all age groups except those aged 40-59.



EU release further details on Youth Guarantee

The EU has today issued a press release outline further details (including funding) for the EU Youth Guarantee noting that a similar broader initiative is under consideration by the G20.

The EU Youth Guarantee aims to ensure that across member states those under 25 are offered specific help and assurances to find employment.  Specifically the guarantee states that “Member States should ensure that, within four months of leaving school or losing a job, young people under 25 can either find a good-quality job suited to their education, skills and experience or acquire the education, skills and experience required to find a job in the future through an apprenticeship, a traineeship or continued education”. 

The EU press release highlights the following EU figures:

  1. Over 5 million young people (under 25) were unemployed in the EU-28 area in July 2014.

  2. This represents an unemployment rate of 21.7% (23.2% in the euro area). More than one in five young Europeans on the labour market cannot find a job; in Greece and Spain it is one in two. This means that around 10% of the under 25 age group in Europe are unemployed.

  3. 7.5 million young Europeans between 15 and 24 are not employed, not in education and not in training (NEETs).

  4. In the last four years, the overall employment rates for young people fell three times as much as for adults.

  5. The gap between the countries with the highest and the lowest jobless rates for young people is extremely high. There is a gap of nearly 50 percentage points between the Member State with the lowest rate of youth unemployment (Germany at 7.8% in July 2014) and with the Member State with the highest rate, Spain (53.8% in July 2014). Spain is followed by Greece (53.1% in May 2014), Italy (42.9%), Croatia (41.5%), Portugal (35.5%) and Cyprus (35.1% in June 2014).

The press release acknowledges that not all EU states are equally ready to implement the new policy and structural reform will be required in many countries.  Pilots are currently running across seven countries (including the UK) to trial various reforms.

The way of things to come? Student, 54 seeks financial advice re later working life

Over in Canda, this financial problems page in the Globe and Mail, (offering readers’ ‘financial facelifts’) caught my eye today.  Here, a 54 year old student asks for advice to manage her tutition fees, mortgage and pension contributions while asking if it might be financially viable to transition to part-time work at the age of 60.  The response: the key will be to keep working until she is at least 65 to try to build up a sufficient pension.

Policymakers must ‘wake up’ to ageing

While I feel I wake up to ageing every morning, this is a more serious call by rather impressive list of organisations including Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Anchor, Carers UK, Centre for Policy on Ageing, the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), Independent Age and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

They have come together to produce a manifesto called “Getting Ready for Ageing”, here described on the Age UK website which summarises the policy goals as follows:

  • Stop seeing ageing as being just about older people – if we wait until we are 60 or 70 to prepare we’ll have left it too late. That’s why the Alliance wants everyone to be sent a pack at 50 giving information and advice.
  • End age discrimination – legislation has gone some way to preventing discrimination on grounds of age but bizarrely financial services are exempt and hidden discrimination remains in many walks of life.
  • Stop operating hospitals on a model designed for the past – staff/patient ratios on hospital wards for older patients are often lower than on general wards, yet older people often need more help – e.g. to eat and drink.
  • Stop undervaluing the over 65s, who currently spend a massive £2.2bn a week and contribute £61bn to the economy through employment, caring and volunteering.
  • Stop ignoring the fact that many older workers are forced to leave the labour market early. Start building more flexible work opportunities to make it possible for family members of all ages juggle work and care for older relatives.

These are interestingly all negative policy statements – things that must stop or end, with perhpas less in the headlines as to how this might be achieved.   I am also not sure that they live up to their own advice – as I think they do see ageing as about older people, otherwise why would the discussions only start at 50?  With all the best intentions sending a pack of information isn’t really the birthday gift I am looking forward to on my 50th birthday.  Surely we all need educating about, for example, changes to the pension system and life long planning ?  Chatting to my 17 yr old recently I explained that ‘a pension’ is not the same as ‘a salary’ – not least in financial terms.  He is also aware of discussions about care for his grandma and the issues she is facing in her living arragements in her 80’s.  These discussions can never start too early.

Nevertheless this cross-group working, particularly the inclusion of those who do not usually campaign from a particular age perspective, is very welcome and we look forward to reading the manifesto in full.

The age of uncertainty: Work, pensions and retirement

A number of items in our alerts this week share a common theme, that of uncertainty for older workers. This revolves around a number of inter-related issues: work (is there work available for them?), pensions (what state pension they may receive?) and retirement (can they afford to retire, do they want to?).

This item on the Daily Mail This Is Money website reports that those approaching retirement don’t currently know what individual state pension they are due under the new ‘single tier’ system. The DWP has said that they should soon get an accurate statement of their state pension income. This will help them determine whether they can expect the full amount when they reach state pension age or whether they need to act to top up their contributions.

At the same time, the BBC News reports ONS statistics showing the number of people working for themselves after 65 had doubled in five years. The growth is mostly through fewer people leaving self-employment because of the difficulty in finding a job with a company. The net effect is that people are staying on in work beyond the retirement age.
And The Telegraph reports here that one in three Britons working past pension age do not know when they will finally be able to retire, this apparently representing a sharp rise in the number of older British workers unable to contemplate retirement in the last year.
Is this uncertainty going to be the ‘new normal’?

Generational stereotypes: How the few define the many

Once again, a plea to resist generational stereotypes in the form of a blog post here in The Guardian.

This time the plea is made on behalf of Millennials and specifically in relation to work issues. The author says:
“There is more loathing for my cohort than for any other generation in the workplace. We’re described as materialistic, politically disengaged, narcissistic and obsessed with technology. Yet, as with any generalisation, many of us are the inverse of that portrayal. Some of us hate the spotlight and long to live off the grid.”

In other words she calls for a rejection of the generalisations that we’ve seen and blogged about not just about Millennials but other generations such as Baby Boomers and the Lost Generation. What’s interesting is that the author says that the stereotypical characteristics of her generation (a sense of entitlement and being narcissistic) are the traits of only a few and then are a function of their privileged class background and individual personality traits.

This reminded me of a point made by Professor Julia Twigg at the British Academy debate on the ageing society earlier this year. She argued then that the concept of Baby Boomers is a ‘classed’ one since it is largely based on consumption, part of an attempt to present positive view of ageing. So is it perhaps the case that, for all generations, the few come to define the many?

What do we think of the BBC series Boomers?

Can I just say that I have only watched the four episodes of this BBC series in my research capacity…

Readers of the blog will know that we are interested in media representations of all ages and generational identities are no exception. So would this BBC sitcom ‘following the ups and downs of three retired couples’ touch on any issues in relation to generations and work? I had some hopes that a story line might develop in this direction after the first episode when Nigel Planer’s character Mick was revealed to be in need of money contrary to initial impressions. But then this character disappeared. Subsequent episodes haven’t strayed far from the predictable territories of retirement, looking after parents, and new grandchildren.

But now it seems that Joyce may need to go back to work in the NHS – so maybe we will see some age at work related material! That said, I’m not particularly impressed by the script. Most of the time it sounds like the actors are delivering lines rather than characters talking to each other.

European comparison on pension access and later life working

How do European countries compare in terms of (a) when people access their pensions and (b) what percentage work when aged between 65 and 69? And are these two matters related?

This article in The Telegraph reports data from the European Commission on these issues. The piece kicks off with the statement ‘Britons take their pensions earlier than workers in other EU countries – but also work later into old age’. This seems to imply a causal relationship between the two findings, justifying the article’s headline: ‘We take pensions earliest in Europe – then carry on working’. This suggests that there is something not quite right about this state of affairs.

But read on and you’ll see that Norway, cited in the article as the country which accesses its pensions latest (at age 65 compared to Britain’s age 58), is also the country with the largest proportion of people aged 65 to 69 in work (26% compared to Britain’s 19%). As pointed out, we don’t know from these figures why people work in later life – the article suggests it’s a ‘choice v necessity’ binary though I imagine it’s more complex for many people.

So what is the point of this piece? Is the clue in the conclusion drawn that these ‘official figures suggested that British savers were making poor choices about using funds set aside for old age’? Because the rest of the article is taken up with contributions from various pensions and financial advisers. This prompts one reader to comment: ‘I may be sceptical, but these articles are primarily here as anchors to advertising for the pensions industry’.

I’m sure there is some interesting analysis to be done with these figures but I don’t think that’s what we’ve got here.


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