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The future of older workers - what can the history of retirement tell us?

The Labour government has stated its aim is to get up to one million more older workers back into employment. There has been an upward trend in the employment rates of older people since the mid-1990s. But this has obscured some very real problems involved in extending working lives in the future.

Professor John Macnicol , visiting professor in social policy at LSE, will chair a special session examining the future for older workers at this year's Social Policy Association annual conference today (Tuesday 24 July).

Presenting his paper on Older Workers in the 21st Century: what can the history of retirement tell us?, Professor Macnicol will be joined in this session by Professor Chris Phillipson (University of Keele), Professor Sarah Vickerstaff (University of Kent) and Dr Tony Blatby, (Centre for Research on Older Workers), who are also presenting papers.

The session will also launch a new book arising from an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) sponsored seminar series on older workers that features a chapter by John Macnicol. The Future For Older Workers: new perspectives (Policy Press, 2007) is edited by Wendy Loretto, Sarah Vickerstaff and Phil White.

John Macnicol said: "From an examination of the history of retirement two very different conclusions could be reached about the future. On the one hand, it could be argued that the present upward trend in older people's employment rates is a temporary aberration, and is unlikely to be sustained. A world recession - triggered, say, by political turbulence in the Middle East - might suddenly and catastrophically reverse the trend.

"On the other hand, we may be entering a completely new phase, in which the labour of older people may be needed again, much as it was in the 19th century - though there may be significant differences, such as the fact that more women than men will work at later ages. The quality of such jobs will be a critical issue: many of them are likely to be low-skilled and poorly remunerated. Examination of historical accounts of retirement will help identify what positive policy steps would support older workers in the future."

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2007 Social Policy Association conference
Older Workers in the 21st Century: what can the history of retirement tell us? will be presented by John Macnicol on Tuesday 24 July at the 2007 Social Policy Association Conference.

The SPA conference takes New Frontiers? Social Policy in the 21st Century as its key theme and will be held at the University of Birmingham from the 23rd-25th July.

Seven academics from LSE will present papers at this year's Social Policy Association (SPA) annual conference in July. The research examines a range of aspects of social policy: the Equalities Review, work-life balance, escaping the 'social service' mindset, and older workers and what can be learnt from the history of retirement. See LSE academics to speak at 2007 Social Policy Association conference| 

24 July 2007

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