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Generations and the General Election

Yesterday’s Today programme on Radio Four tackled the General Election via the lens of age – and the notions of generations in particular.  In a particularly lively live broadcast from Bath “old people” were accused of having too much whilst “the young” were attacked for being too lazy and disengaged.  By default I assume this latter accusation must have excluded those who got up early to participate in the debate – which does kind of illustrate the risk of stereotyping.

The issue of house prices obviously came up, and rather unfortunately the impression seem to be created that being old automatically entailed ownership of a £1.5million Georgian house.  (It doesn’t – unless I’m not quite old enough yet and someone will just turn up with some house keys in a few years time? No I don’t think so either.)

While there were attempts to ask if things were actually different generationally – that is to say is it any different for the young now than the when ‘old people’ were young – on the whole the debate kept to a generic old v young divide.

There was a useful analysis of issues regarding pension and likely financial status of future pensioners (and its not pretty).  This is of course a challenging issue which affects many different age groups.  As now there will be a huge variation in wealth among pensioners – being old is not a guarantee of wealth now or in the future.


WEF event: Addressing an ageing population and work: Nov 2017

We blogged a while ago about an event later this year organised by the Westminster Employment Forum.

Entitled “Addressing an ageing population and work – implementing the Fuller Working Lives strategy and reforming the State Pension” please note that it will now take place on Thursday 2nd November 2017 (and not in September as previously stated). Further details to be found here.

The Guest of Honour will be Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better

The event will look at the challenges for policymakers in the context of an ageing population and the independent review of the State Pension Age (SPA). Sessions will consider how a reformed SPA might affect different social and age groups as they prepare for retirement, and the challenges for ensuring that all retirees have sufficient income to support them.

Other speakers include Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of Ergonomics and Human Factors, Institute of Occupational Medicine and Christopher Brooks, Senior Policy Manager, Consumer and Community, Age UK.

Ageism and the young

After a bit of a blogging hiatus due to holidays we are back!  A quick scout around the news, and a determination to avoid the election for a few days, and I spotted this piece in the Guardian:

Ageism at work: ‘Being mistaken for the work-experience kid is humiliating’

This provides a useful reminder that ageism is problematic for young aswell as old, a point acknowledged the annonymous author who points out that we will all be at risk from ageism at some, or indeed many, points in our lives.  In particular here discussing the use of terms such as ‘child’ and ‘kid’ for younger people higlights how this can impact confidence and self-esteem.  As one tweet put it, if you think that is bad try “being the work experience kid”.

Future work on Age at Work project

Katrina and I met up yesterday to plan future work on the Age at Work project so this is a quick round up of our plans.

As Katrina had already blogged recently we are off to the WORK 2017 conference in Turku, Finland in August. We are also delighted to have had papers accepted at a couple of other conferences too.

So the further details are that we will be at:

The British Society of Gerontology in July 2017 presenting our paper “Calendar Girls: Ageing and Aesthetic Labour“. In this paper, we use discursive and visual methods to analyse online news media coverage of the Pirelli calendar.  We use the concept of a discursive event as a temporally and contextually bounded episode (Hardy & Maguire, 2010) that can shed light on a wider societal issue. This offers a way of examining the discursive (often recursive) processes that take place when concepts and identities are represented, how such representations are situated in wider discourses and what is achieved as a result.

The Manchester Ethnography Symposium in August/September 2017 presenting our paper “Facing up to work: a collaborative-visual-auto-ethnography”. This explores our reflexive experience of a collaborative-visual-auto-ethnography undertaken as part of a broader research project examining aesthetic labouring (Entwistle and Wissinger, 2006).  Our specific interest is the trend towards a ‘new natural’ femininity of ageing and its construction as a discourse of successful liberation. We are concerned with how the positive associations between beauty, femininity and youth (Trethewey, 1999) are becoming further refined, such that they must be performed effortlessly as women age, most notably without recourse to make-up. We unpack our own aesthetic labouring as ‘older’ women working not in the entertainment industry per se, but in a role which still requires us to face an audience in the lecture theatre on a regular basis.

It’s going to be a busy summer! But we are excited to be going to these conferences and looking forward not just to presenting our work but hearing about the research of others too. We also have a journal paper in review and a couple of other papers in development.

Age at work and the #GeneralElection

We are back after an Easter break. And hardly at our desks before the news broke of the upcoming general election. Listening to the Today programme this morning and browsing The Guardian’s coverage of today’s Parliamentary debate at lunchtime, some ‘age at work’ stories seemed to leap out…

First, some contrast in how the age of MPs and parliamentary candidates is used (or not used).  The Independent reported here that Vince Cable, who lost his seat in the last election, had announced his intention to run for Parliament again in his former seat of Twickenham. Sir Vince is 73 and his age is not mentioned in the article (nor, I think, did it come up in his interview on the Today programme) which is refreshing.  It is however raised in the reader comments where for example, one reader writes ‘Jobs for the boys, no interviews, just straight in the door ahead of younger candidates’ – implying the privilege of prior experience but conflating this with older age.

George Osborne however specifically invokes his age (45) as a reason for his decision to stand down (though some might say that the election is a convenient mechanism for him to do so given the criticism he faced over his multiple other jobs). ‘At the age of 45, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just being an ex-chancellor. I want new challenges. I’m very excited about the opportunity to edit the Evening Standard. I’ve met the team there, and their energy and commitment to this great newspaper are positively infectious.’ As reported here in The Guardian, Osborne also said that “I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now” – leaving open the possibility of a return to politics. So not quite sure how that tallies with the opening line quoted above about not wanting to be an ex-chancellor at 45. And if anyone had made sure that with numerous other paid roles, they weren’t ‘just being an ex-chancellor‘ I think we can say that it is George Osborne.

Away from the age of politicians, we have also seen the issue of voter age raised by the Greens who are calling for 16 and 17 year olds to be allowed to vote in the general election.

And there are calls for younger people to register to vote – not least after (unfounded?) speculation  that the absence of voting by this age group contributed to the outcome of the EU Referendum.

This gives an indication of some of the age-related matters that are likely to be issues in the campaign. I’m sure we’ll return to this before 8th June!

@AgeatWork is off to #WORK2017

Rebecca and I are delighted to have had our paper accepted for #WORK2017

Calendar girls? Aesthetic labour in the digital age

In this paper we explore the ways in which a ‘new, natural’ femininity (Lewis, 2014) is being positioned as positive, authentic and empowering for working women. We build on concerns that idealized representations of women and widespread use of digitalization effectively erase ageing and promote a perpetual youth (Twigg, 2010).  Analysing debates about an iconic visual representation of women, we explore how the 2017 Pirelli Calendar can be seen as a product of aesthetic labour which digitally circulates and recirculates as understandings of ‘naturalness’ become (re)constructed.


Our campaign pays off: Turner Prize age limit lifted!

So after our prolonged campaign, well a few blog posts, tweets and an unanswered email to the Tate, we are thrilled to hear that the Turner Prize has lifted it’s age limit!  (Just to clarify, we are not really claiming that this was entirely down to our influence…though every little helps!)


Reporting the announcement A-N quoted Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson:  “We have always kept these terms under review and we feel that now is the right moment to make this change. The Turner Prize has always championed emerging artists — it has never been a prize for long service but for a memorable presentation of work in that year.  Now that its reputation is so firmly established, we want to acknowledge the fact that artists can experience a breakthrough in their work at any age.”

We note that the Turner Prize launched in 1984 and are surprised that given it is one of the most talked about art prizes in the world that it has only regarded itself as established in 2017!  Twitter seems to agree this was a change that was long overdue!


UK pension age likely to rise again

The outcomes of John Cridland’s consultation on state pension age (SPA) have been widely reported in the press over the last week.  This review aimed to look at issues of affordability, fairness (particularly in terms of life expectancy) and understanding issues of early exit from the labour market by those in their 60’s.

The results reported in the press to date focus primarily on the need to increase the SPA quicker than currently planned and a view that the so-called ‘triple lock’ on pensions should be removed in the next parliament (see for example this coverage in the Guardian).

Current plans to raise SPA focus on an increase (for both men and women) to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046.  This review suggests the increase to 68 is brought forward to between 2037 and 2039, and a subsequent rise to 70 would then be considered.

There is much focus in the report on ‘intergenerational fairness’ in terms of the outcomes but although there is detailed consideration of  factors impacting health and life expectancy at this stage it is not clear how these feature in terms of the recommendations made for changes to SPA.  The report includes some discussion about funding benefits for those most in need but this is an area that requires more clarity and discussion.

Upcoming event: LSE/TAEN seminar on Ageing, Older Workers and Migration

We have blogged recently on a couple of stories about the possible effects of new immigration policies on both sides of the Atlantic on particular industries (like hospitality) with a focus on younger and older workers. This is just one aspect of the post-Brexit world that we’re grappling with.

So the next LSE/TAEN seminar may be of interest to readers of this blog. The topic will be Ageing, Older Workers and Migration.  This promises to explore some of the issues that will arise after triggering article 50. This might include pension benefits, movement of people, and the ‘portability’ of social rights.

The seminar will be held on Thursday 27 April 2017 from 2 to 5pm in the Graham Wallace Room, 5th floor, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.

The speakers will be Professor Robert Holzmann and Dr Martin Hyde

  • Robert Holzmann is currently honorary professor at the University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpour) and at the University of New South Wales (Sydney). His work focuses on several issues relating to ageing, the labour market and social protection.
  • Dr. Martin Hyde is Associate Professor in Gerontology at Swansea University, Centre for Innovative Ageing. His work focuses on different issues including the quality of life in early old age, life course perspectives and ageing and globalisation.

For more information about the seminar please see this link

If you wish to attend this seminar please contact Chris Ball direct (rather than on the sign-up form on the web page).

A mini round-up on the latest on age discrimination at work

I noticed a lot of items in our alerts about age discrimination over the last week. Here’s a handy round-up of them.

The Telegraph reported the findings of a study by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University. It was led by Dr Nick Drydakis, an economist, and was commissioned by the official magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The researchers carried out an experiment in which they used a series of carefully constructed CVs in respect of applicants aged 28 and 50 who had the same level of qualification and otherwise almost identical skills and interests. The older applicants’ Cvs showed more experience. Over a period of two years, they used these to apply for more than 1,800 jobs. The younger candidates were 4.2 times more likely to be offered an interview than the older applicants. There was also a gender effect: younger men were 3.6 times more likely to get an interview than their older rivals while among women the gap was 5.3 times.

A similar style of study is also reported in the Business Insider this time conducted in the USA. The academic who ran the study is Patrick Button, Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. The research team (also economists) created about 40,000 fictitious applications and submitted them online for 13,000 lower-skilled jobs as sales people, administrative assistants, security guards and janitors. These jobs were selected because they are “common jobs that older workers actually get hired in”, the so-called “bridge jobs” that appeal to older workers as they near the end of their working life but still want and need to stay in paid work. The results apparently showed evidence that women experience age discrimination in hiring, and that the inequity intensifies with age.

The Actuary reports a survey commissioned by SunLife in which almost 40% of people aged 50 and over report having experienced age discrimination, with 62% of those believing they have lost out on a job because of it. The survey asked abut experiences across different aspects of life: so while the workplace was found to be the most likely scene of such discrimination, people also reported age discrimination in shops, while driving, in bars and restaurants, and on public transport.

Clearly legislation against age discrimination (while an essential step) does not on its own solve the issue and lived experience of ageism at work. It’s interesting how these studies and surveys were generated by economists and financial institutions (rather than, for example, work psychologists). Does this indicate a move towards the development of the ‘business case’ argument against age discrimination (as opposed to a rights-based equality discourse)? These aren’t of course mutually exclusive.

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