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Britain needs to “reinvent #retirement” – but is flexible working the answer?

by on December 14, 2015

The pensions minister, Baroness Altmann (previously the ‘older workers champion’) is reported here in The Express as claiming that older workers could grow the economy by 1% (£16 billion a year) if they delayed their retirement by just 12 months. She is also said to argue that this would ‘benefit [retirees] financially, physically and mentally‘. She calls on Britain to “reinvent retirement”, for example, through letting older workers move to part-time contracts or having time off for caring responsibilities.

Retirement has been the focus of a great deal of political and academic interest in recent years what with the abolition of mandatory retirement and the increase in state pension age.  In addition, we’ve seen changes across all age groups where digital technology and legal regulations have made work more flexible in terms of where, how and when we work. One of the key aspects is that it is very difficult to generalise about what retirement means as these changes do not affect us equally. Indeed, one of the academic themes is the extent to which retirement is already being reinvented to the point where we see the multiplicity of retirement as a lived experience.

To this end, we recommend a paper published earlier this year by Wendy Loretto (University of Edinburgh Business School) and Sarah Vickerstaff (University of Kent) in the journal Work, Employment and Society. This is the link to the abstract. Its starting point is to consider how flexible forms of working have been promoted (as per Baroness Altmann, above) as a way of encouraging people to work longer and delay retirement. But it then goes to challenge some of the assumptions that underpin the utility of flexible work in extending working lives and to provide insight into the ways in which working in later life is different for men and women.

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