At the start of the week I blogged about a new report by the Intergenerational Commission called as time goes by. I promise to read the while 45 page report, which I have now done. Well almost. I will admit to getting rather hot under the collar which made it a bit difficult to concentrate. This wasn’t helped by spotting this article in the Daily Mail this morning: “A Generation with a huge sense of entitlement: Bosses complain that millennials are spoilt, full of themselves, averse to hard work and expect ‘success on a plate’ so what does that mean of society?” (Short answer of course, nothing. It’s a stereotype that tells us nothing about those born in a particular year; but of course the impact of the stereotype perpetuated in this way is a real concern to us @ageatwork).
So having been side tracked here are some quotes from the Resolution Foundation / Intergenerational Commission report and my views:
Progression between generations is described as “the natural order”. This is intriguing. I wonder if the continuing wealth gap between those at the top and the bottom of the income levels is also the natural order? The report tries to address this by saying “while inter and intra generational equity are different concepts they are nevertheless intertwined”. This gives the impression that generation is the pre-eminent lens through which we should view issues of inequity. This seems very odd to say the least, particularly as there is no academic agreement about the divisions between or labels for different generational cohorts.
There is much discussion of ‘typical’ and ‘average’ here. This can provide a broad sense of one view on the distribution of income – but only one view.
It is claimed that millennials are suffering from generational-specific trends. But this argument is not clearly explained. Particularly why is a cohort lens the only one that is relevant to understand the experiences of this age group? There is some but insufficient comparison of the generational categories at particular chronological ages.
A lot of attention in the report is given to comparing ‘pensioners’ to ‘working age families’. The whole notion of ‘working age’ is currently undergoing a radical change. And this is indeed an issue of importance to us all, as notions of retirement are being radically overhauled. Why not open this up for debate?
I will return to the point I made on Monday. To stereotype any generation – negatively in the (insert word of choice) Daily Mail article today – or to portray the millennials as hard done by in comparison with the well off Baby Boomers, as is the tendency in this report, is problematic. These stereotypes have real effects, and perpetuating them is not helping anyone of any age.
Accompanied by stock photos of a couple cycling in the sunshine and relaxing on the shores of an Italian lake (I’m guessing a bit on the location), this BBC story headlines news from the ‘think tank’ The Resolution Foundation. Unusually for the BBC there is no direct link through to the research cited, so it took a bit of digging to discover the origin is a report they produced for The Intergenerational Commission
I hope you are keeping up as it turns out that ‘The Intergenerational Commission’ is a thinktank founded by The Resolution Foundation and chaired by David Willetts, who amongst other things is author of ‘How the BabyBoomers took their children’s future’. Another few clicks and it turns out the David Willetts is also chair of the Resolution Foundation.
I know – its only Monday! Some crass stereotypical stock photos and a story on Generations already.
Interestingly the BBC story doesn’t mention generations at all. But its all there in the report. Now this is a 45 page report so I am going to read it properly before I actually review it in detail on this blog. There is a first time for everything! But in 45 pages, full of discussion of intergenerational fairness and the intergenerational social contract there doesn’t seem to be any definition of the term generation. Rather generational labels are discussed as though they are clearly accepted and comparable groups. There is also some conflation of familial and cohort sense of the term generation and the usual conflation with age. While even from a quick skim read we can see that there is some acknowledgement of intra-generational inequity this seems brushed aside as already receiving enough attention elsewhere. I look forward to reading the whole 45 pages and adding more to our blog later in the week!
Just to reiterate, at @AgeatWork we research issues relating to all ages at work. Our concern here is the impact of stereotyping all generations – whatever labels you chose to use – particularly when generation is used as a explanatory mechanism for difference in socioeconomic status.
Since fees were introduced for bringing a claim in an employment tribunal, the number of claims has fallen by 70%, as reported here in The Guardian. It’s a trend picked up by the unions who say that those most affected are low paid women, and follows a Government review published at the end of January. Whilst it was expected that the number of claims would fall, the decrease is larger than expected.
The Government review talks about people being discouraged but not prevented from bringing claims due the the fees payable up front. It also acknowledged that whilst some claims were addressed through ACAS, there was “a group (which we estimate to be between 3,000 and 8,000people) who were unable to resolve their disputes through conciliation, but who did not go on to issue proceedings because they said that they could not afford to pay“.
This has been criticised by unions, employment law firms and the Law Society. It also highlights the individualised nature of bringing a claim against an organization for, say, age discrimination. The real cost is both finanical and personal (it takes time and effort to address what are often systemic or organizational issues). We looked at the statistics for age discrimination claims in this post last December reporting on the general downward trend, notwithstanding a spike due to a large multiple claimant issue in September 2015.
I don’t think we’ve looked at this issue on the blog before. But the BBC News website featured this item on job hopping earlier this month. Citing a a survey by insurance company Liverpool Victoria, it reports that a UK worker will now change employer on average every five years. There’s been discussion for some time about how the ‘job for life’ is disappearing (if not already disappeared). But what struck me in the BBC report was the assertion that ‘the most influential element driving how often you change jobs is age’. Where’s the evidence for that?
As the article makes clear, this statement is not based on any UK data, though it features Dr Clare Gerada as an example of an older worker who has worked for the NHS for 40 years. I don’t think this is a particularly compelling example as most doctors will work for the NHS for their entire career unless they move into private practice or abroad.
The BBC article also cites recent statistics from the US, where the average tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times the 2.8 years of workers aged 25 to 34. And this prompted a follow-up article on the Benefits Pro website on the impact this might have on younger workers’ retirement savings schemes. This is partly a concern due to changes in how US companies make contribution payments in occupational pension schemes. And there may be issues – particularly following automatic enrolment – around portability of pension schemes in the UK.
The BBC article also suggests some ‘generational’ differences (oh no!) with regard to what younger and older workers want from their work. It mentions ‘several surveys’ that suggest this but we know that these are often methodologically flawed (for example, only asking people of one ‘generation’ what they want and then presenting the finding as a ‘difference’). Happily we think the tide is turning in the academic literature with regard to this type of ‘finding’.
We’ve covered earlier parts of the campaign to get more older people into employment, in particular the Missing Million reports published in 2015 by Prime, in conjunction with Business in the Community (BITC) and the International Longevity Centre.
Last September the Government appointed Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Life, as Business Champion for Older Workers. The role is to support how organizations respond to population ageing, namely through improved retention, re-training and recruiting of older workers. As reported here in The Telegraph, the policy will be to ask organizations to employ an extra one million older staff by 2022. This means every firm will need to increase the number of staff aged between 50 and 69 that they employ over the next five years by 12%.
The background to this call is well rehearsed:
- increased longevity;
- the increase in State Pension age;
- a growing skills gap whereby there will be almost double the number of new jobs in the UK then there will be new younger workers over the next 5 years;
- age discrimination and bias by employers;
- Government policy to encourage people to extend their careers and defer retirement (e.g the Department for Work and Pensions’ recent launch of its ‘Fuller Working Lives’ strategy.
I was interested to see some of the case studies on the BITC website. These include profiles of three older workers who have taken up encore careers as carers. I recall a Government minister some time ago suggesting this was a suitable occupation for older people (he implied as volunteers) so I made a point of checking with Home Instead that the caregiver role featured in the case studies is a paid role. They confirmed that it is. Though they couldn’t tell me the rates of pay.
This is a new nine part series on retirement. Three parts have been published so far:
- How an ageing population is transforming Britain
- A generation who can’t afford to retire
- Work until you drop
The series has a mix of personal stories, publically available facts and figures along with commentary form a number of key researchers in the area. Each article explores a range of issues and provides links through to the academic research projects that are discussed. It appears as somewhat as a personal mission for Amelia Hill, the journalist as in places she documents her visits to interview her sources. Its obviously a timely series and is prompting a lot of feedback judging by the ‘below the line comments’. My frustration is the way in which big topics – such as skills development in later careers and barriers to occupational transition – are only mentioned in passing. (Regular readers will notice my restraint given the use of the G word.) Some of the more fundamental issues of retirement are also hinted at but not really unpacked. So for example is thinking of retirement as a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ helpful anymore? What role do these terms paly in shaping our understanding of working in later life? Does the classic notion of looking at the push v pull issues of retirement help us understand the broad range of responses to ageing at work today? However there are of course three more episodes in the series so perhaps it is to early to say that these will not be address. Certainly this sort of coverage – and particularly the combination of personal experience and academic voices – is a great way of getting people talking about age at work.
Having spotted this interesting article on Twitter today, I thought it was time to revisit our semi-regular post about a recent academic article – even better this one is open access:
You may have spotted this story in the news last week as BBC reported on research published in Nature that “Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests“:
“The distribution of women and men across academic disciplines seems to be affected by perceptions of intellectual brilliance. Bian et al. studied young children to assess when those differential perceptions emerge. At age 5, children seemed not to differentiate between boys and girls in expectations of “really, really smart”—childhood’s version of adult brilliance. But by age 6, girls were prepared to lump more boys into the “really, really smart” category and to steer themselves away from games intended for the “really, really smart.”
Obviously 6 year olds are (thankfully) not part of the working population but two things occur to me:
- what is the cumulative impact of these perceptions about gender roles that impact young men and women as they start their working lives?
- how do these develop and change as both men and women age?
In particular are there other ‘cut off’ points in choronological age that relate to how we see the world, ourselves and others in it? We have covered some of this in our research on visual images of gendered ageing but there is clearly more work to be done!
Pritchard, K and Whiting, R (2015) ‘Taking stock: a visual analysis of gendered ageing’ Gender, Work & Organization SI Problematizing Gendered Ageing in the New Economy, 22 (5) 510-528.
We are excited to be starting 2017 with some changes – most notably my move to Swansea – but also kicking off a new investigation of age at work. We will be building on our previous use of visual and discursive methods to investigate gendered ageing and looking at this further in respect to digital media.
We have already submitted a new project proposal and two conference abstracts – its been a busy January so far! Once we are further along we will be sharing more news about this investigation via our blog and twitter so watch this space!
We are back after the Christmas and New Year holidays – we hope everyone had a good break too.
And we have some news: Katrina starts a new job today as Associate Professor in the School of Management at Swansea University. Many congratulations to her on this appointment.
So we look forward to continuing our research on the Age at Work project as before but with Katrina at Swansea and me at Birkbeck. We have a journal paper from our work on this project in review and are busy planning our conference paper contributions for this summer.
Wishing our readers a very happy 2017!