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Working into later life: The self employment option

by on January 14, 2015

As reported here in the Telegraph, most workers ‘want’ to work into their 70s, according to the Government. This follows a YouGov poll which suggests that for many people the traditional idea of retirement is dead. I haven’t been able to locate the YouGov survey (presumably because it was commissioned for the Government?) but the reported findings look like this:

  • Only 17% of people in their fifties said that stopping work entirely at age 60 or 65 was the “best way” to retire;
  • Nearly 50% of under-65s who were not currently retired said they would like to still be in work until they were 70; and
  • Just under 40% said they preferred to work part-time or flexible hours as their career came to a close.

All of this suggests that increasing numbers of people will be looking to continue working into later life, whether through personal preference or financial necessity or otherwise.

We’ve blogged extensively about the problems that older workers can face when seeking jobs in later life and the double bind that means they can be damned for not working (‘drain on society’) and damned for working (‘taking jobs when young people are out of work’). One of the ways promoted to get round this is self-employment. For example, the charity PRIME provides support for self-employment for the over 50s who are unemployed or under threat of redundancy.

So we are delighted to highlight an excellent new academic paper exploring self-employment in later life that has just been published in the journal Work, Employment & Society. The paper is entitled ‘Making sense of self-employment in late career: understanding the identity work of olderpreneurs’ by Oliver Mallett (Durham University) and Robert Wapshott (University of Sheffield).  The link to the paper in the journal is here (subscription required) with a downloadable pre-print version available via this link on the Durham University site.

Here’s the abstract as a taster:

The enterprise culture is a pervasive socio-historical discourse. This article adopts a narrative identity work approach to explore how individuals may exert agency to make sense of and negotiate with the structuring features of such discourses. Older entrepreneurs are an interesting case through which to explore these processes because ageing is predominantly portrayed as a form of decline to be resisted or hidden and as inherently anti-enterprise. Qualitative, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with two UK-based older entrepreneurs reveal how they engaged problematically with discourses around enterprise culture and ageing in constructing their identities. Sedimentation and innovation are proposed as valuable concepts for understanding how particular discourses become embedded in the understanding and identity work of individuals and how they seek to exert agency. The findings demonstrate the difficulties in innovative identity work for older entrepreneurs and this is discussed in terms of narrative resource poverty.


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