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Age and Work research at #Work2015 conference

by on August 24, 2015

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.

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