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Age and work in the Trump era

I don’t imagine this will be the last blog post on the topic of age and work during Trump’s presidency in the US.

There’s something of a mirror image to our earlier post this week going on in this article on the Michigan Radio website.

It reports that in the hospitality sector, restaurants are struggling to attract workers. They have traditionally depended on migrant labour as apparently nearly one in five restaurant employees in the US are foreign born. And restaurants also have the youngest workforce of any sector of the economy.

The article considers what the effects of this might be of Trump’s immigration policies (handily explained in detail here by the New York Times) but broadly in this context it involves favouring employment of nationals.  Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant Association, is cited as saying that “over the next decade restaurants will likely create more jobs than the U.S. born workforce can fill.” And he goes on to point out that with numbers of younger workers in decline, this is going to create vacancies which would otherwise have been filled by immigrants.

There’s no mention here of what other options could be explored – hiring older workers? – but again, we’ll watch with interest to see what happens.

Age and work in the post-EU referendum landscape

I don’t imagine this will be the last blog post that considers the impact of the Brexit vote for age and work related issues.

This recent article in People Management cites a CIPD Labour Market Outlook (LMO) survey that reports 27% of UK employers say they have seen evidence that EU nationals in their organisations are considering leaving the company (or the UK) this year. The survey also reports that employers say they are struggling to fill nearly 750,000 vacancies in the UK labour market because of a lack of suitable labour and skills. And it’s the low-skilled sectors such as retail, manufacturing, health and hospitality that account for 45% of the vacancies.

How do organizations say they would address this shortage?

  • 26% say they would absorb the extra cost of recruiting staff from the EU;
  • 19% say they would retain older workers;
  • 17% said they would invest in more in training;
  • 17% said they would hire more apprentices;
  • 16% said they would recruit more UK-born graduates.

So is it possible that the post-Brexit landscape would be good for older workers (via higher retention rates) and workers of all ages (via more apprenticeships and graduate schemes, assuming these are not restricted to younger workers)? Enter David Davis, the Brexit secretary. According to this article in today’s Guardian, the UK is not about to ‘shut the door’ on low-skilled EU migrants and apparently it’s not ‘plausible’ that British citizens would immediately take low-skilled jobs in sectors such agriculture, social care and hospitality. So immigration restrictions will apparently be phased in.

There’s a long way to go before a clearer picture emerges of the UK labour market post-Brexit landscape. But we’ll be watching with interest to see the implications for age and work.

As promised I’ve read the report!

At the start of the week I blogged about a new report by the Intergenerational Commission called as time goes by.  I promise to read the while 45 page report, which I have now done.  Well almost.  I will admit to getting rather hot under the collar which made it a bit difficult to concentrate.  This wasn’t helped by spotting this article in the Daily Mail this morning: “A Generation with a huge sense of entitlement: Bosses complain that millennials are spoilt, full of themselves, averse to hard work and expect ‘success on a plate’ so what does that mean of society?”  (Short answer of course, nothing.  It’s a stereotype that tells us nothing about those born in a particular year; but of course the impact of the stereotype perpetuated in this way is a real concern to us @ageatwork).

So having been side tracked here are some quotes from the Resolution Foundation / Intergenerational Commission report and my views:

Progression between generations is described as “the natural order”.  This is intriguing.  I wonder if the continuing wealth gap between those at the top and the bottom of the income levels is also the natural order?  The report tries to address this by saying “while inter and intra generational equity are different concepts they are nevertheless intertwined”.  This gives the impression that generation is the pre-eminent lens through which we should view issues of inequity.  This seems very odd to say the least, particularly as there is no academic agreement about the divisions between or labels for different generational cohorts.

There is much discussion of ‘typical’ and ‘average’ here.  This can provide a broad sense of one view on the distribution of income – but only one view.

It is claimed that millennials are suffering from generational-specific trends.  But this argument is not clearly explained.  Particularly why is a cohort lens the only one that is relevant to understand the experiences of this age group?  There is some but insufficient comparison of the generational categories at particular chronological ages.

A lot of attention in the report is given to comparing ‘pensioners’ to ‘working age families’.  The whole notion of ‘working age’ is currently undergoing a radical change.  And this is indeed an issue of importance to us all, as notions of retirement are being radically overhauled.  Why not open this up for debate?

I will return to the point I made on Monday.  To stereotype any generation – negatively in the (insert word of choice) Daily Mail article today – or to portray the millennials as hard done by in comparison with the well off Baby Boomers, as is the tendency in this report, is problematic.  These stereotypes have real effects, and perpetuating them is not helping anyone of any age.


Rising pensioner income in the news again

Accompanied by stock photos of a couple cycling in the sunshine and relaxing on the shores of an Italian lake (I’m guessing a bit on the location), this BBC story headlines news from the ‘think tank’ The Resolution Foundation.  Unusually for the BBC there is no direct link through to the research cited, so it took a bit of digging to discover the origin is a report they produced for The Intergenerational Commission

I hope you are keeping up as it turns out that ‘The Intergenerational Commission’ is a thinktank founded by The Resolution Foundation and chaired by David Willetts, who amongst other things is author of ‘How the BabyBoomers took their children’s future’.  Another few clicks and it turns out the David Willetts is also chair of the Resolution Foundation.

I know – its only Monday!  Some crass stereotypical stock photos and a story on Generations already.

Interestingly the BBC story doesn’t mention generations at all.  But its all there in the report.  Now this is a 45 page report so I am going to read it properly before I actually review it in detail on this blog.  There is a first time for everything!  But in 45 pages, full of discussion of intergenerational fairness and the intergenerational social contract there doesn’t seem to be any definition of the term generation.  Rather generational labels are discussed as though they are clearly accepted and comparable groups.  There is also some conflation of familial and cohort sense of the term generation and the usual conflation with age.  While even from a quick skim read we can see that there is some acknowledgement of intra-generational inequity this seems brushed aside as already receiving enough attention elsewhere.  I look forward to reading the whole 45 pages and adding more to our blog later in the week!

Just to reiterate, at @AgeatWork we research issues relating to all ages at work.  Our concern here is the impact of stereotyping all generations – whatever labels you chose to use – particularly when generation is used as a explanatory mechanism for  difference in  socioeconomic status.

Fall in employment tribunal claims: the cost of bringing age discrimination claims

Since fees were introduced for bringing a claim in an employment tribunal, the number of claims has fallen by 70%, as reported here in The Guardian. It’s a trend picked up by the unions who say that those most affected are low paid women, and follows a Government review published at the end of January. Whilst it was expected that the number of claims would fall, the decrease is larger than expected.

The Government review talks about people being discouraged but not prevented from bringing claims due the the fees payable up front. It also acknowledged that whilst some claims were addressed through ACAS, there was “a group (which we estimate to be between 3,000 and 8,000people) who were unable to resolve their disputes through conciliation, but who did not go on to issue proceedings because they said that they could not afford to pay“.

This has been criticised by unions, employment law firms and the Law Society. It also highlights the individualised nature of bringing a claim against an organization for, say, age discrimination. The real cost is both finanical and personal (it takes time and effort to address what are often systemic or organizational issues). We looked at the statistics for age discrimination claims in this post last December reporting on the general downward trend, notwithstanding a spike due to a large multiple claimant issue in September 2015.

Job hopping and age: Unpacking so-called findings

I don’t think we’ve looked at this issue on the blog before. But the BBC News website featured this item on job hopping earlier this month. Citing a a survey by insurance company Liverpool Victoria,  it reports that a UK worker will now change employer on average every five years. There’s been discussion for some time about how the ‘job for life’ is disappearing (if not already disappeared). But what struck me in the BBC report was the assertion that ‘the most influential element driving how often you change jobs is age’. Where’s the evidence for that?

As the article makes clear, this statement is not based on any UK data, though it features Dr Clare Gerada as an example of an older worker who has worked for the NHS for 40 years. I don’t think this is a particularly compelling example as most doctors will work for the NHS for their entire career unless they move into private practice or abroad.

The BBC article also cites recent statistics from the US, where the average tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times the 2.8 years of workers aged 25 to 34. And this prompted a follow-up article on the Benefits Pro website on the impact this might have on younger workers’ retirement savings schemes. This is partly a concern due to changes in how US companies make contribution payments in occupational pension schemes. And there may be issues – particularly following automatic enrolment – around portability of pension schemes in the UK.

The BBC article also suggests some ‘generational’ differences (oh no!) with regard to what younger and older workers want from their work. It mentions ‘several surveys’ that suggest this but we know that these are often methodologically flawed (for example, only asking people of one ‘generation’ what they want and then presenting the finding as a ‘difference’). Happily we think the tide is turning in the academic literature with regard to this type of ‘finding’.

#OneMillionMore: Campaign to encourage employers to hire #OlderWorkers

We’ve covered earlier parts of the campaign to get more older people into employment, in particular the Missing Million reports published in 2015 by Prime, in conjunction with Business in the Community (BITC) and the International Longevity Centre.

Last September the Government appointed Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Life, as Business Champion for Older Workers. The role is to support how organizations respond to population ageing, namely through improved retention, re-training and recruiting of older workers. As reported here in The Telegraph, the policy will be to ask organizations to employ an extra one million older staff by 2022.  This means every firm will need to increase the number of staff aged between 50 and 69 that they employ over the next five years by 12%.

The background to this call is well rehearsed:

  • increased longevity;
  • the increase in State Pension age;
  • a growing skills gap whereby there will be almost double the number of new jobs in the UK then there will be new younger workers over the next 5 years;
  • age discrimination and bias by employers;
  • Government policy to encourage people to extend their careers and defer retirement (e.g the Department for Work and Pensions’ recent launch of its ‘Fuller Working Lives’ strategy.

I was interested to see some of the case studies on the BITC website. These include profiles of three older workers who have taken up encore careers as carers. I recall a Government minister some time ago suggesting this was a suitable occupation for older people (he implied as volunteers) so I made a point of checking with Home Instead that the caregiver role featured in the case studies is a paid role. They confirmed that it is. Though they couldn’t tell me the rates of pay.

Guardian’s special series on “The new retirement”

This is a new nine part series on retirement.  Three parts have been published so far:

  1. How an ageing population is transforming Britain
  2. A generation who can’t afford to retire
  3. Work until you drop

The series has a mix of personal stories, publically available facts and figures along with commentary form a number of key researchers in the area.  Each article explores a range of issues and provides links through to the academic research projects that are discussed.  It appears as somewhat as a personal mission for Amelia Hill, the journalist as in places she documents her visits to interview her sources.  Its obviously a timely series and is prompting a lot of feedback judging by the ‘below the line comments’.  My frustration is the way in which big topics – such as skills development in later careers and barriers to occupational transition – are only mentioned in passing.  (Regular readers will notice my restraint given the use of the G word.) Some of the more fundamental issues of retirement are also hinted at but not really unpacked.  So for example is thinking of retirement as a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ helpful anymore? What role do these terms paly in shaping our understanding of working in later life?  Does the classic notion of looking at the push v pull issues of retirement help us understand the broad range of responses to ageing at work today?  However there are of course three more episodes in the series so perhaps it is to early to say that these will not be address.  Certainly this sort of coverage – and particularly the combination of personal experience and academic voices – is a great way of getting people talking about age at work.

Useful article on extending working lives

Having spotted this interesting article on Twitter today, I thought it was time to revisit our semi-regular post about a recent academic article – even better this one is open access:

This article explore the factors that influence individuals deciding whether they will carry on working or retire.  It highlights that in order to increase the proportion of working population in an era of an ageing demography this is critical to understand.  The relevance of gender differences are also reviewed and the paper looks at these issues across Europe by considering published studies since 2005.   On the whole there is nothing in here that is hugely surprising but it is a really useful summary of findings on a range of issues.  It highlights the challenges of healthy ageing, particularly for those in demanding occupations and for those with lower socio-economic status.  Within a respect to gender the issue of stereotypes is raised, alongside a recognition that women continue to take on more caring responsibilities.  The key requirement for attention to both individual and macro level factors is highlighted. Here there is a timely link with the recent press coverage on the state of social care in the UK – see here in the Guardian for example.
It is a clearly written paper and well worth a read although some of the tables are rather difficult to read online due to their formatting.

Issues for age at work start young – for girls

You may have spotted this story in the news last week as BBC reported on research published in Nature that “Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests“:

“The distribution of women and men across academic disciplines seems to be affected by perceptions of intellectual brilliance. Bian et al. studied young children to assess when those differential perceptions emerge. At age 5, children seemed not to differentiate between boys and girls in expectations of “really, really smart”—childhood’s version of adult brilliance. But by age 6, girls were prepared to lump more boys into the “really, really smart” category and to steer themselves away from games intended for the “really, really smart.”

Obviously 6 year olds are (thankfully) not part of the working population but two things occur to me:

  1. what is the cumulative impact of these perceptions about gender roles that impact young men and women as they start their working lives?
  2. how do these develop and change as both men and women age?

In particular are there other ‘cut off’ points in choronological age that relate to how we see the world, ourselves and others in it?  We have covered some of this in our research on visual images of gendered ageing but there is clearly more work to be done!

Pritchard, K and Whiting, R (2015) ‘Taking stock: a visual analysis of gendered ageing’ Gender, Work & Organization SI Problematizing Gendered Ageing in the New Economy, 22 (5) 510-528.


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