Understanding older workers’ experiences: Exploring lifecourse influences of class, gendered social roles and health upon later-life employment

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of older workers’ employment experiences in later life. The UK’s ageing population has led to concerns about the rising cost of funding State Pensions, and skills shortages in the labour market. In response, successive UK governments have introduced a range of policy measures (such as raising the State Pension age and abolishing mandatory retirement) that are designed to extend working life beyond traditional retirement ages (DWP, 2017; Vickerstaff & Loretto, 2017). The impacts of such policies upon older workers themselves remain poorly understood. In particular, the implications of gendered patterns of employment and unpaid caring work at earlier lifecourse stages for women’s and men’s employment experiences in later life require further investigation. We present preliminary findings from an on-going, mixed-methods study entitled ‘Dynamics of Accumulated Inequalities for Seniors in Employment (DAISIE). The aim of DAISIE is to investigate the gendered impacts of Extended Working Life (EWL) policies in the UK, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland. We present UK data derived from in-depth, biographical interviews with 120 male and female employees aged 50+, employed in three case-study organisations (healthcare, transport and financial services). Interviews explored participants’ employment histories, health trajectories, family circumstances, and unpaid caring responsibilities across the lifecourse. Interviews also focused on employees’ views about their current jobs and their aspirations regarding future work and retirement. This paper adopts an intersectional, lifecourse approach to consider various ways in which age interacts with other dimensions of social location, such as class, gender and health status, to shape the nature of older workers’ employment experiences. Our comparative analysis of employees’ experiences within the three case-study organisations also illuminates the influence of occupation-based constraints and resources upon the gendered experiences of male and female older workers. We argue that in order to achieve a fine-grained understanding of older workers’ employment experiences, it is necessary to take account of social conditions and processes operating over time and at different scales: the individual household context, the meso-context of organisational policies and practices, and the overarching structural context of employment legislation, national pension regulations, and welfare policies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020
EventInternational Labour Process Conference - Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Apr 202017 Apr 2020


ConferenceInternational Labour Process Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • older workers
  • gender
  • class
  • health
  • lifecourse
  • case-study

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