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Stirring controversy: telling a ‘have-it-all’ generation how to behave

by on August 6, 2014

It seems likely that the author of yesterday’s piece in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian knew that she would create some controversy by suggesting that a generation (very specifically defined as those born between 1946 and 1964) should be told when to quit work.

In this article, Anne Perkins suggests that “telling sixty somethings to stay at work is an appeal to self-indulgence that risks becoming one more way of embedding inequality’.

It’s an argument that has attracted 581 reader comments so far. On the same day, The Guardian also ran this item in the Society/Older People section of their website which featured a number of different voices, including the Deputy Chief Executive of CIPD, under the heading of ‘the case for an age diverse workforce’.

Many of the points that can be – and have been – raised are recognisable from earlier debates on this topic (the lump of labour fallacy, the limitations of totalising a birth cohort without recognising e.g. class, gender differences). So whilst not wanting to close down discussion on this issue, I do wonder if this type of article is a useful contribution. Or whether age and work issues are now seen in some quarters as providing a predictable basis for controversy.

Though in fairness, and reverting to the original article, I must confess to being intrigued by the construction of work as a form of self-indulgence.

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