Katrina and I met up yesterday to plan future work on the Age at Work project so this is a quick round up of our plans.
As Katrina had already blogged recently we are off to the WORK 2017 conference in Turku, Finland in August. We are also delighted to have had papers accepted at a couple of other conferences too.
So the further details are that we will be at:
The British Society of Gerontology in July 2017 presenting our paper “Calendar Girls: Ageing and Aesthetic Labour“. In this paper, we use discursive and visual methods to analyse online news media coverage of the Pirelli calendar. We use the concept of a discursive event as a temporally and contextually bounded episode (Hardy & Maguire, 2010) that can shed light on a wider societal issue. This offers a way of examining the discursive (often recursive) processes that take place when concepts and identities are represented, how such representations are situated in wider discourses and what is achieved as a result.
The Manchester Ethnography Symposium in August/September 2017 presenting our paper “Facing up to work: a collaborative-visual-auto-ethnography”. This explores our reflexive experience of a collaborative-visual-auto-ethnography undertaken as part of a broader research project examining aesthetic labouring (Entwistle and Wissinger, 2006). Our specific interest is the trend towards a ‘new natural’ femininity of ageing and its construction as a discourse of successful liberation. We are concerned with how the positive associations between beauty, femininity and youth (Trethewey, 1999) are becoming further refined, such that they must be performed effortlessly as women age, most notably without recourse to make-up. We unpack our own aesthetic labouring as ‘older’ women working not in the entertainment industry per se, but in a role which still requires us to face an audience in the lecture theatre on a regular basis.
It’s going to be a busy summer! But we are excited to be going to these conferences and looking forward not just to presenting our work but hearing about the research of others too. We also have a journal paper in review and a couple of other papers in development.
We are back after an Easter break. And hardly at our desks before the news broke of the upcoming general election. Listening to the Today programme this morning and browsing The Guardian’s coverage of today’s Parliamentary debate at lunchtime, some ‘age at work’ stories seemed to leap out…
First, some contrast in how the age of MPs and parliamentary candidates is used (or not used). The Independent reported here that Vince Cable, who lost his seat in the last election, had announced his intention to run for Parliament again in his former seat of Twickenham. Sir Vince is 73 and his age is not mentioned in the article (nor, I think, did it come up in his interview on the Today programme) which is refreshing. It is however raised in the reader comments where for example, one reader writes ‘Jobs for the boys, no interviews, just straight in the door ahead of younger candidates’ – implying the privilege of prior experience but conflating this with older age.
George Osborne however specifically invokes his age (45) as a reason for his decision to stand down (though some might say that the election is a convenient mechanism for him to do so given the criticism he faced over his multiple other jobs). ‘At the age of 45, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just being an ex-chancellor. I want new challenges. I’m very excited about the opportunity to edit the Evening Standard. I’ve met the team there, and their energy and commitment to this great newspaper are positively infectious.’ As reported here in The Guardian, Osborne also said that “I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now” – leaving open the possibility of a return to politics. So not quite sure how that tallies with the opening line quoted above about not wanting to be an ex-chancellor at 45. And if anyone had made sure that with numerous other paid roles, they weren’t ‘just being an ex-chancellor‘ I think we can say that it is George Osborne.
Away from the age of politicians, we have also seen the issue of voter age raised by the Greens who are calling for 16 and 17 year olds to be allowed to vote in the general election.
And there are calls for younger people to register to vote – not least after (unfounded?) speculation that the absence of voting by this age group contributed to the outcome of the EU Referendum.
This gives an indication of some of the age-related matters that are likely to be issues in the campaign. I’m sure we’ll return to this before 8th June!
Rebecca and I are delighted to have had our paper accepted for #WORK2017
Calendar girls? Aesthetic labour in the digital age
In this paper we explore the ways in which a ‘new, natural’ femininity (Lewis, 2014) is being positioned as positive, authentic and empowering for working women. We build on concerns that idealized representations of women and widespread use of digitalization effectively erase ageing and promote a perpetual youth (Twigg, 2010). Analysing debates about an iconic visual representation of women, we explore how the 2017 Pirelli Calendar can be seen as a product of aesthetic labour which digitally circulates and recirculates as understandings of ‘naturalness’ become (re)constructed.
So after our prolonged campaign, well a few blog posts, tweets and an unanswered email to the Tate, we are thrilled to hear that the Turner Prize has lifted it’s age limit! (Just to clarify, we are not really claiming that this was entirely down to our influence…though every little helps!)
Reporting the announcement A-N quoted Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson: “We have always kept these terms under review and we feel that now is the right moment to make this change. The Turner Prize has always championed emerging artists — it has never been a prize for long service but for a memorable presentation of work in that year. Now that its reputation is so firmly established, we want to acknowledge the fact that artists can experience a breakthrough in their work at any age.”
We note that the Turner Prize launched in 1984 and are surprised that given it is one of the most talked about art prizes in the world that it has only regarded itself as established in 2017! Twitter seems to agree this was a change that was long overdue!
The outcomes of John Cridland’s consultation on state pension age (SPA) have been widely reported in the press over the last week. This review aimed to look at issues of affordability, fairness (particularly in terms of life expectancy) and understanding issues of early exit from the labour market by those in their 60’s.
The results reported in the press to date focus primarily on the need to increase the SPA quicker than currently planned and a view that the so-called ‘triple lock’ on pensions should be removed in the next parliament (see for example this coverage in the Guardian).
Current plans to raise SPA focus on an increase (for both men and women) to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046. This review suggests the increase to 68 is brought forward to between 2037 and 2039, and a subsequent rise to 70 would then be considered.
There is much focus in the report on ‘intergenerational fairness’ in terms of the outcomes but although there is detailed consideration of factors impacting health and life expectancy at this stage it is not clear how these feature in terms of the recommendations made for changes to SPA. The report includes some discussion about funding benefits for those most in need but this is an area that requires more clarity and discussion.
We have blogged recently on a couple of stories about the possible effects of new immigration policies on both sides of the Atlantic on particular industries (like hospitality) with a focus on younger and older workers. This is just one aspect of the post-Brexit world that we’re grappling with.
So the next LSE/TAEN seminar may be of interest to readers of this blog. The topic will be Ageing, Older Workers and Migration. This promises to explore some of the issues that will arise after triggering article 50. This might include pension benefits, movement of people, and the ‘portability’ of social rights.
The seminar will be held on Thursday 27 April 2017 from 2 to 5pm in the Graham Wallace Room, 5th floor, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.
The speakers will be Professor Robert Holzmann and Dr Martin Hyde
- Robert Holzmann is currently honorary professor at the University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpour) and at the University of New South Wales (Sydney). His work focuses on several issues relating to ageing, the labour market and social protection.
- Dr. Martin Hyde is Associate Professor in Gerontology at Swansea University, Centre for Innovative Ageing. His work focuses on different issues including the quality of life in early old age, life course perspectives and ageing and globalisation.
For more information about the seminar please see this link
If you wish to attend this seminar please contact Chris Ball direct Chris.Ball@shaw-trust.org.uk (rather than on the sign-up form on the web page).
Illinois attorney general has warned a number of online career search companies about inbuilt age bias. Reported recently in the Chicago Tribune five US national companies have been warned about the inbuilt bias of drop down selection links that relate to setting up details of education and previous employment. On one website the earliest possible date a use could select was 1980 for education. However previously in relation to the cut off dates provided for employment categories, recruitment companies have justified the use of such dates as in the users best interest so that they profiles contain only their most recent and relevant work experience. Indeed there is also an argument that doing away with dates for some categories such as education could be advantageous to older job seekers as it avoids indirectly declaring your age.
Retirement as a concept is certainly being challenged and contested. Is it still meaningful? Has retirement become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford? Is it experienced differently by men and women? Does it involve (paid) working?
The Guardian’s ongoing series ‘the new retirement’ by Amelia Hill is looking at the changing nature of retirement and people’s hopes, fears, plans and experiences. This has featured – for example – an article exploring its meaning for five Yorkshire women all at different stages of approaching retirement, what it takes to achieve a successful and fulfilling retirement (‘a budget, good friends, a plan’) as well as an exploration of the history of ‘retirement’ which might point to more flexible notions of retirement age.
Elsewhere in online news, retirement crops up in wider discussions of age at work. This article on the AOL website, declares that ‘early retirement is dead – unless you have one of these jobs’. For the record, these are said to be:
Sportsperson; Soldier; Police Officer; Air Traffic Controller or Firefighter.
What these roles have in common is a requirement of high or peak fitness (mental and/or physical) related to job performance which mean these occupations also have actual or de facto mandatory retirement ages. We have featured stories about these occupations on the blog – sometimes it’s been a case of individuals who have maintained fitness levels then challenging these mandatory retirement rules (e.g. Kevin Fulthorpe); othertimes it’s been collective action to prevent retirement age being increased (e.g. firefighters). The thrust of the article is that it might be worth thinking about these jobs simply because of the early retirement (and pension) entitlement. Will we see these issues featuring in careers advice in the future? The retirement debate looks set to continue.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day which was marked in many ways including a mass demonstration in London by Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). We have blogged before on this issue. Their latest action was a protest outside Parliament about the lack of information given to them about their pensions and to raise awareness of the difficulties that this is causing for those affected. Women from different parts of the UK including from Scotland, Manchester, the North East, and Wales travelled to Westminster. The aim of the campaign is to seek fair transitional arrangements. The UK government has been criticised for not making women properly aware of the changes.
The BBC article quotes Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris who chairs the State Pension Inequality for Women committee, as saying: “Some women are selling their homes in order to be able to survive, living off savings which are rapidly running out and I don’t think it’s fair, having in some way shape or form contributed to society all their lives.”
On the subject of state pension age, readers may be interested in an event planned for later this year by the Westminster Employment Forum. This will look at the challenges for policymakers in the context of an ageing population and the independent review of the State Pension Age (SPA). The conference will take place on Tuesday, 12th September 2017, further details to be found here. Speakers include Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of Ergonomics and Human Factors, Institute of Occupational Medicine and Christopher Brooks, Senior Policy Manager, Consumer and Community, Age UK.