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Experiences of Work at Old Age and Retirement


Thu 27. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 202

Ageing, forms of capital and employment


Bowman, Dina (2); McGann, Michael Thomas (1); Biggs, Simon (1); Kimberley, Helen (2)
1: University of Melbourne, Australia; 2: Research and Policy Centre, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Australia

Extending workforce participation of older people has become a focus of policy concern in OECD countries which is driven by growing anxiety about the fiscal challenges of population ageing. A common policy response to the 'disappearing taxpayer' is an increase in the age of pension eligibility. For example, in Australia the pension eligibility age is gradually being increased to 70 by 2035. This policy response does not recognise the issue of mature age unemployment and underemployment. Older workers who lose their jobs often find it difficult to regain employment and face long-term unemployment. There are two common explanations for this situation. The human capital approach locates the source of older workers’ difficulties in their outdated job skills; with training, it is argued, these workers will develop skills suited to the modern economy. A second widespread explanation is that older jobseekers experience age discrimination, which can be addressed through education, backed by legislation. In this paper, we draw on a study of Australian mature age unemployed and underemployed women and men to critically engage with both explanations. Using Bourdieu's interrelated concepts of field, habitus and capital we examine how class - as signified by occupation - and gender affects these mature age Australians' labour force participation. This analysis contributes to more nuanced understanding of mature age workforce participation.