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Special Issue in GWO: Gendered ageing in the New Economy

This week saw the publication of a special issue in the journal Gender, Work & Organization on Gendered Ageing in the New Economy. The issue appears here (but subscription required). It would be fair to say that the idea for this special issue started at the Gender, Work & Organization conference in 2012 (reported here on this blog) following an excellent stream of papers around the theme of ‘Gendered Ageing at Work’.

The special issue now published starts with a very useful introduction by the guest editors (Kat RiachWendy Loretto and Clary Krekula) which provides a brief overview of some of the formative approaches to exploring gender and age within work and organization studies. It then introduces the five papers, namely:

    1. Gendering Pensions: Making Women Visible by Jo Grady (abstract here). This paper uses the concept of heteropatriarchy, a term that ‘refers to the dominance of heterosexual male power’, to examines pension reform in the UK. It analyses how this is based on an idealised working life and how this is likely to contribute to the continuing disadvantage of women, undermining their contribution to the economy.
    2. Work, Age and Other Drugs: Exploring the Intersection of Age and Masculinity in a Pharmaceutical Organization by Barbara Foweraker and Leanne Cutcher.  This explores the work experiences of older male pharmaceutical sales representatives, many of whom are working well past traditional retirement age, and how they draw on ageing norms and successful ageing discourses rather than earlier held hegemonic masculinity ideals to construct what it meant for them to be an older man.
    3. ‘Success Is Satisfaction with What You Have’? Biographical Work–Life Balance of Older Female Employees in Public Administration by Elisabeth Schilling. This paper looks at older female employees in the public service sector in Germany, comparing women with middle-level qualifications to highly-qualified women in order to explore the intersection of age, qualification and work–life trajectories. It explores how two cohorts of women with contrasting qualifications and backgrounds negotiate work and non-work responsibilities, desires and aspirations.
    4. Technical Change and the Un/Troubling of Gendered Ageing in Healthcare Work by Susan Halford and colleagues. This paper features a Norwegian case study of healthcare professionals in two hospitals, specifically examining the role of new technologies in the workplace.  Against a background where ‘working longer’ is encouraged at Government level, gendered ageing in relation to these technologies can construct both troubled and untroubled identities.
    5. Taking Stock: A Visual Analysis of Gendered Ageing by Katrina Pritchard and Rebecca Whiting (this is our paper!).  We’ve already highlighted this in this earlier blog post but, suffice to say, we’re delighted that our paper was included in this excellent special issue.

Our thanks to the Guest Editors for a great job. The issue also includes reviews of three books that examine various aspects of ageing as an organizational and organizing phenomenon, namely:

  • Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment, by Chris Gilleard and Paul Higgs. Anthem Press, 2014;
  • Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body, and Later Life, by Julie Twigg. Bloomsbury, 201;
  • Older Workers in an Ageing Society: Critical Topics in Research and Policy, edited by Philip Taylor. Edward Elgar Publishers, 2013.

Age and Work research at #Work2015 conference

As Katrina indicated, I was in Turku in Finland last week attending the excellent Work 2015 conference. The theme was ‘New Meanings of Work’, specifically exploring the ‘very definition of what is work‘ by examining new forms of work, new modes of working, and new ways of living, particularly where new boundaries are being drawn or blurred between work and non work (such as the rise of unpaid labour). It attracted a wide range of academic disciplines which brought new insights for me into these topics. The full programme is still available via the link on this page of the Conference website.

The conference was organised by the Turku Centre for Labour Studies, part of the University of Turku and they did a fantastic job. It was one of the best conferences I have attended: extremely well organised, very friendly, great plenary speakers, and some excellent papers.

I presented our ‘Missing Millions’ paper in the Age and Work stream, which was chaired by Robert Wapshott of the University of Sheffield. Readers of this blog may recall we have previously reported Robert’s excellent paper in the journal Work, Employment & Society with Oliver Mallett ((link to abstract here) on self-employment in late career.

The Age and Work stream featured a wide range of papers including many from academics in Scandinavia which provided the opportunity to reflect on trends in Nordic countries and the extent to which these mirror those in the UK and other parts of the world. Key topics were transitions to retirement (including the meaning of work and impact of caregiving responsibilities), entrepreneurship and self-employment for older people, the often precarious nature of work for younger workers entering the labour market, as well as analysis of longitudinal data looking at a range of age/work issues including work commitment and career development. The full list of papers in the stream is available here.

Of particular interest to UK readers is the work of Prof Fiona Carmichael and  Prof Joanne Duberley (both at the University of Birmingham) using longitudinal data, e.g. the British Household Panel Survey, as well as interesting analysis of occupational history calendars which collect data on the lifetime work histories of men and women supplemented by in depth interviews. This is used to explore how our working lives are linked to pathways into retirement.

One of the plenary sessions (by Prof Lisa Adkins) urged us not to focus exclusively on the precarious nature of work but rather to explore unemployment (for both younger and older workers) in a post-Fordist economy, specifically how it is constructed and the categories of unemployed in different age groups that are brought into being. This was heartening (to me!) given that our Missing Millions paper looks at the discursive construction of age-related unemployment in the UK.

Our thanks to Robert for organising the stream, to all the presenters and to the organisers of the conference.

Missing million back in the news (and not just our conference presentation at #WORK2015)

So Rebecca is off in Finland presenting our research on Missing Million, exploring this label as its been applied to both issues of ‘youth’ and ‘older’ unemployment….

….at the same time as this debate on twitter about new youth unemployment figures.

Interestingly this is picked up on as an opportunity for technology careers for the young…

While elsewhere on twitter the issue of older unemployment was also being discussed

(And yes I did just learn to embed tweets in wordpress!)

So our paper is right on trend!  Look out for more in Rebecca’s post conference report next week (I expect, she hasn’t said she’ll be writing one but I am fairly sure she will!)

Young and unemployed? Off to a bootcamp you go!

Interestingly released just after the news coverage of A level results day, is a report widely covered in the UK press (here in the Guardian) of an ‘earn or learn’ policy to be introduced by the UK governments.  The Daily Mail highlighted that this is also related to a revamp of benefits for the under 21’s.

Much of the press coverage focused on the ‘boot camp’ idea though it was officially called an ‘intensive activity programme’ in the press release from the Government.  This also highlighted the way in which the programme would essentially be compulsory as failure to attend might result in loss of benefits.  The press release goes onto say:

“The intensive curriculum includes practising job applications and interview techniques as well as extensive job search, and is expected to take 71 hours over the first 3 weeks of the claim. A dedicated work coach will work with jobseekers and continuously review what was achieved during the initial 3-week work course.”

It will be interesting to understand how such plans are related to the overhaul of careers advice within schools and what offers of similar support might be made to the over-21s.

ACAS guidance on employing younger workers

The Express and Star here report on new ACAS guidance for employer organizations on the special protections in place when employing younger workers (here, those under 18 years).

These requirements include younger workers being entitled to two days off a week, receiving the national minimum wage, working no more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, being advised on work-based training, and usually not being allowed to do night shifts.

Interestingly, given the widespread problematization of older workers, Stewart Gee, Acas Head of Information and Guidance, is reported as saying: “Our own research reveals that workers under 18 are particularly vulnerable as they are within the age group that are most likely to face problems at work.

The advice (issued on Wednesday to mark UN International Youth Day). More details on this are available here on the ACAS website including a link to a downloadable copy of the guidance.

Young workers and in-work benefits

There was plenty of coverage earlier this week (see here in The Guardian)  of the story that the Government is considering plans that would prevent young British workers (aged 18-22) claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and child benefit. Introducing a four-year residency test only for migrants to stop them claiming benefits during their first four years in the UK (part of the Tory manifesto pledge) is argued to be illegal on the grounds that it would amount to direct discrimination.

To get round this, the rule could be introduced and applied to all UK benefit applicants from the age of 18. As explained on the BBC News website, this would mean that, even if young workers had lived in the UK all their lives, they would be ineligible for the benefits for four years until they reached 22. The Daily Mail estimated this could affect 50,000 young British workers, ‘mostly single mothers being helped back into work’.

The mooted action attracted criticism from across the political spectrum (and 2596 reader comments in the Daily Mail). It was argued (e.g. by Carole Easton, from the Women’s Trust) that “young people are already at the bottom of the pile”. Now the Politics Home website reports that ministers accept that they won’t be able to stop benefit payments to migrants. It quotes Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin as saying that EU renegotiation “must be going very badly if the only way to stop EU migrants claiming benefits is to stop our own people getting them too”.

People Management August issue highlights age

Are we ready for the four-generation workforce?  That is the question posed by one of the special features in August’s People Management, the CIPD’s practitioner publication.

Sadly despite a subheading suggesting we should forget the cliches, the opening double page spread of the article is dominated by a stereotypical representation of four generations.  I had to read it twice to realise that yes, PM really does suggest that Millennials spend most of the day sexting and that Gen X drives a Volvo and BabyBoomers only like smartphones with big buttons.  What is going on here?  Eventually in the article, well onto the second page, there is a bracketed comment referencing their generational descriptions as stereotypes but this is too little too late.  Was it really necessary to give stereotypes so much dominance and then hide away the comment that recognises the problems such stereotypes (of all ages) raise?

At no point in the article is the notion of a generation actually unpacked, readers will be left with the idea that such cohorts are a well defined and agreed phenomenon when they are not!  Rather there is a lot of discussion of age as a chronological fact and the relative issues of employment at and of different chronological ages.  Sorry PM but you have rather missed the point, despite the useful review of a couple of organisations who are taking some innovative steps on age diversity.

I will need a few more cups of coffee before I can bring myself to read the rest of the age related articles in this issue.

Working longer in the news

Maybe its the ‘post-holiday blues’ but on return to work (and blogging duty) this week, there seemed to be an awful lot about working longer in the news.

In fact reading the inspirational stories in this article in the guardian was just what I needed, although there are some real tales of struggle here and it is not always clear that working longer is what these people would choose to do.  There are also some unfortunate reinforcement of retirement stereotypes: of doing nothing, of knitting and fishing and golf.  However the main benefit of this piece is challenging the stereotype that people become to old to work effectively – I would dare anyone to suggest that to those featured!  Their experiences are supported by a piece in CBC news featuring an interview with Jennifer Newman which also challenges assumptions about age and ageing at work.  Interestingly she suggests that research shows “most staff under 25 feel older than their chronological age, while most staff over 30 feel younger than their chronological age“.  Perhaps this is a bit of a generalisation but it echoes the message from those older workers telling their stories in the Guardian.  (Just don’t ask me how old I feel on the first day back at work after a holiday!)

Cake, children and cheap travel: A round up of age at work stories – and then we’re on holiday

A quick round up of some of the age at work stories that have caught my eye this week.

Who could resist clicking on the headline Harrods worker ‘sacked for eating cake’ that appeared in The Telegraph.  In what sounds like a truly ingenious line of argument, Mr Mackenzie, a Harrods restaurant manager, told the Central London employment tribunal he had tasted a slice of the cake ‘to make sure it was sufficiently moist’. This was in the context of a claim for discrimination over his ethnicity, age and sex. No details of any of these claims but the case was thrown out. Which I think is what he said was going to happen to the cake….

China may be about to change its one-child policy, according to this piece in The Guardian, on the grounds that its ageing population means it has a shrinking pool of working-age people. Interestingly, the working-age population (which fell by 3.71 million last year) is defined as those aged between 15 and 59. That upper age is looking rather young by European and US standards these days.

In a bid to boost local youth employment, the Welsh Government is funding a scheme, in partnership with the bus industry and local authorities, to help young Welsh people travel to and from training and employment more cheaply. The story is reported here on the ITV news website. The idea is to remove a potential barrier to accessing training and employment opportunities.

That’s it for a week. We’ll be back blogging in the week of 3rd August. Happy holidays!

The case for age diversity in business and life – Meet the Queens Young Leaders

We seem to be picking up on range of ‘age diversity’ stories of late. It actually isn’t the most common phrase that generates material in our alerts but perhaps things are changing. Or it’s summer. Or something.

Anyway, this piece by Oli Barrett on the Startups website (‘The UK’s No.1 service for starting a business’, apparently) makes the case for age diversity. He mentions the following recent experience: ‘I was surprised and disappointed this week to see that the board of a significant charity has a group of trustees whose average age is 64. On top of that, there is no-one in that group in their twenties, thirties or forties, nor anyone (with one exception), in their seventies, eighties or older‘ and then goes on to lament the absence of older people on company boards etc as well as in other settings as we miss out on their wisdom, ideas and advice. I wasn’t entirely clear exactly what he was proposing as a solution to this. The article continues by referencing a number of young political leaders.

So instead I followed a link in the article to the Queen’s Young Leaders website as I hadn’t heard about this initiative. It turns out to be a programme (which makes awards and grants) to discover, celebrate and support ‘exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth, leaving a lasting legacy’. Specifically it targets young people (18-29) who can demonstrate leadership and make a change in their communities. Reading some of the projects set up by the 2015 winners suggests that wisdom, ideas and advice are attributes not only located in older people – but then we knew that already, right?


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