EXTEND: Social inequalities in extending working lives of an ageing workforce

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Sociological Studies

Abstract

Europe is currently undergoing significant demographic change, with an ageing population, shrinking workforce, and increasing life expectancy. In this context, it is necessary to raise the activity rate of older workers in a way that is healthy and productive for workers, employers and countries as a whole. A major issue in extending working lives is that those in different circumstances will be affected differentially by any proposed changes. EXTEND is a cross-national collaborative project which therefore aims to examine inequalities in relation to extending working lives. It addresses inequalities in relation to a number of pertinent issues, including changes to retirement and pension policies, the health and well-being of older workers and retirees, workplace factors, employee skills and training, and regulative and legislative frameworks. The project will take the social services sector as a particularly important example due to the barriers faced by health and care professionals. The evidence base will be generated by drawing on the varied expertise of its partners across five EU countries, employing a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including policy analysis, panel data methods, natural experiments, a field trial, case studies, interviews and focus groups. We will engage numerous stakeholders with our findings, including policy makers, the business community, workers and their representatives, older people, the general public, and practitioners in the social services sector. The EXTEND project is strongly solution-driven, and has the overall aim of reducing inequalities in retirement structures.

Planned Impact

Europe is currently undergoing significant demographic change. People are living longer and governments need evidence on the implications for the European workforce. EXTEND is an international multi-disciplinary collaborative project which will generate knowledge on employability, retirement and health. An inequalities focus will provide evidence on how policies on extending working lives can be implemented to minimise an increase in, or reduce, inequalities. The University of Sheffield is the UK project partner and will work to maximise research impact in the UK.

The overall EXTEND objective will benefit numerous stakeholders. First and foremost, extending working lives is a policy area that has implications for the general population. Changes to policies on pensions and retirement - such as a raised pension age - affect the general population and have varying consequences for different occupations and circumstances. Such policies therefore have the potential to increase inequalities. Policy makers need to understand how to extend working lives without increasing inequality. There are also consequences for the wider economy as business productivity is potentially influenced by age-friendly work policies. The project will disseminate findings direct to departments and key individuals in the policy sector. Those in local government and special interest organisations will also be included.

The employability of older workers also affects the quality of life of both workers and their families. Workers need work environments and policies which will enable healthy and equitable longer working lives, or retirement, which is informed by evidence. A focus on the wellbeing on older people is a key part of the project. Given the demographic focus on EXTEND, older people and their representatives are essential stakeholders. The University of Sheffield will draw on its long-standing expertise in engaging older people to disseminate findings of the project to this demographic. In this sense, EXTEND aims to close the gap between science and society on this important issue. Information will be available to citizens, and experts, on how to promote health and wellbeing for those affected by policies on extending working lives. The project will benefit from the involvement of older people's charities and social groups.

A key stakeholder in EXTEND is the business sector, which will help to generate evidence on best practice, and in turn will be informed of innovations and strategies for working conditionings to help sustain a productive, healthy and equitable workforce. One particularly significant sector is social services, which has high rates of early work exit, disability and absenteeism. This has implications for extending working lives for the whole workforce since caring responsibilities in older age impact significantly on retirement decisions. EXTEND will engage with the business community including business support organisations, chambers of commerce, and professional associations. The project will specifically engage with social care professionals, education and training organisations, government departments and health networks.

EXTEND will use multiple methods to reach its various audiences. The project will hold stakeholder events to disseminate targeted findings to key audiences, including one event specifically focussed on the social service sector. A social media and web presence for the project will be established early on. Mailing lists will be collated and paper and e-newsletters tailored to different stakeholder groups will be shared regularly.

EXTEND represents a substantial opportunity to inform evidence-based policy and best practice on extending working lives, a very important topic in the context of demographic change. It will be beneficial to a wide range of stakeholders who will be engaged with comprehensively.
 
Description 1. Gender and socioeconomic factors intersect in extending working life inequalities.

Our work has shown that it is important to consider how gender and socioeconomic factors are together implicated in extending working live inequalities. Our analysis of English Longitudinal of Ageing data show that it is women in lower socioeconomic positions, as well as disabled and ethnic minority women, who were particularly unlikely to be aware about changes to the state pension age. This will likely widen inequalities in pension income. Simulation work in EXTEND has shown that it is this same group of women who will be hardest hit by the pension reforms in terms of lowered income. This demographic group requires urgent attention.

2. The health and social care sector should be a focus for extending working live policies, with a good chance for gains via age management policies

We focussed on the health and social care sector in EXTEND because it has an ageing workforce, a high proportion of female employees, and high vacancy rates. It is also a very large sector and is growing in size because of the increased need for care. This suggests that further research and policy work should continue to focus on this sector. We specifically considered age management policies, conducting case studies interviews with both management and employees. We offer a number of suggestions in relation to flexible working, training, and health promotions, and we have also identified a number of specific challenges. Further work is needed to build upon these findings and investigate how they might be implemented successfully across a range of organisations.

3. Arthritis and depression are associated with a great deal of early work exit

Previous research suggests that health is a key reason why people involuntarily leave the labour market in later life. Our epidemiological analysis examined the role of different chronic conditions in leading to exit and found that arthritis and depression account for a large proportion of exits. Further, these conditions are more prevalent amongst women, suggesting a way to address gender inequalities in early labour market exit. We further examined mediators of these relationships and found that pain, use of large muscles and mobility restrictions are key reasons why chronic conditions lead to exit. These findings suggest promising avenues for intervention and policy focussed on addressing inequalities in extending working lives.

4. Participation in strengthened research networks around extending working lives

As a direct result of EXTEND, we have considerably strengthened our research networks around the topic of extending working lives. DH has joined a European COST Action and as a result presented findings from the project in the European Parliament. We have hosted a research placement for a German EXTEND colleague. We will participate in an upcoming high-level research and stakeholder workshop on intersections of factors influencing extending working lives. DH joined a new European junior scholar network of labour market researchers (LAR-Ynet). Further we have presented work from the project at conferences in the US, European and the UK.
Exploitation Route We have endeavoured to publish the results in high impact journals to maximise exposure, and we currently have a number of papers prepared or under review to meet this aim. We will also continue to publish blog posts and disseminate papers on social media and at high level international conferences. We have also actively engaged in facilitating others using our findings by engaging with policy and practice audiences, such as presenting research findings in London in collaboration with the International Longevity Centre - UK (ILC-UK) to a mixed audience of ~100, and at a workshop on older workers in Sheffield. An upcoming report published alongside the ILC-UK will help to disseminate findings to policy audiences. Further, we have summarised project findings in a series of newsletters that we have directly disseminated to existing contacts, and we have also been in direct contact with health and social care organisations about the age management findings in particular.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

URL http://www.extendjpimybl.eu/
 
Description Chronic disease and healthy ageing at the intersections: social locations, biomarkers, and health practices;
Amount £197,658 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/R00921X/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 09/2020
 
Description World Congress Travel Stipend
Amount $1,000 (USD)
Organisation International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics 
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description COST Action IS1409 
Organisation European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Dr Daniel Holman has been responsible for co-leading the early career investigator group within COST Action IS1409 'Gender and health impacts of policies extending working life in western countries'. This has involved facilitating and participating in networking and collaboration between early career researchers from across Europe.
Collaborator Contribution These activities mirror the above; the focus has been on establishing connections and collaborations. Papers are currently being planned as a result.
Impact These are still in the planning stages.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Input from Women Against State Pension Age Inequality (WASPI) member 
Organisation Women Against State Pension Inequality
PI Contribution We shared a draft of a paper on state pension inequality with a member of WASPI, a campaign group especially interested in this topic.
Collaborator Contribution The member provided feedback on the draft paper.
Impact A paper which is currently under review.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Blog for ICL-UK Future of Ageing Blog Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Blog post for ICL-UK Future of Ageing Blog Series which has a wide international reach. The topic was on the social care sector which is a highly topical area in the extending working lives issue. The blog was co-authored with international researchers, which is likely to have widened the reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://blog.ilcuk.org.uk/2017/10/16/future-of-ageing-blog-series-extend-project-social-inequalities-...
 
Description CROW/TAEN/LSE Older workers seminar series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We held an event to disseminate findings from the project related to age management in the health and social care sector. The audience was wide-ranging and included people from industry/business [check attendance list]. The event included a lively panel discussion. We disseminate project findings in newsletters to the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/research-and-policy-issues-on-active-ageing-and-employment-in-later-l...
 
Description Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Opening keynote presentation to 70th Annual Conference of the Finnish Gerontological Society in Helsinki: 'Realising the Promise of Active Ageing'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dissemination newsletters from project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We have produced and disseminated three project newsletters to wide ranging audiences, including to South Yorkshire Housing Association, NHS Providers, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and local government.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description European Parliament - presentation of summarised research findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact DH presented a summary of findings from EXTEND at the European Parliament. The event was focused on gender inequalities in extending working lives. The UK country profile was presented, which was directly based on work in the project, including two papers (one published and one under review).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Joint policy event with ICL-UK held at the Royal Institution 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This policy focused event presented findings from across the project. The audience were very diverse coming from a range of backgrounds. We disseminated the three project newsletters we have produced over the course of the project. We have established links with individuals and organisations following the event who we plan to work with in the future. A report of the disseminated findings is in preparation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ilcuk.org.uk/extend-inequalities-in-extending-working-lives-research-launch/
 
Description LSE British Politics and Policy blog post and Twitter interest 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Almost 50 comments have been left on the post, which represents a significant deal of attention for this blog. Interest on Twitter was also significant - with over 20,000 impressions and 700 engagements related to the blog and associated paper. Following on from this we received personal correspondence with members of the public, and media attention (reported separately).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/state-pension-age-inequalities-in-awareness
 
Description Media coverage and press enquiry following publication of paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Coverage of paper: Holman, D. Hess, M. and Foster, L. (2018) Inequalities in women's awareness of changes to State Pension Age in England and the role of cognitive ability. Ageing & Society. in Financial Times Advisor (2018) 'Academics call on govt to rethink pensions communication'. Published online on August 30th at https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/08/30/academics-call-on-govt-to-rethink-pensions-communication/ and
i Newspaper (2018) 'How many 1950s women knew about the increase to their state pension age?' Published online on August 30th at https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/how-many-1950s-women-knew-about-the-increase-to-their-state-pension-age/.

A further request from i Newspaper on how pensions reforms have impacted the affected women
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/08/30/academics-call-on-govt-to-rethink-pensions-communicati...
 
Description Policies for an ageing workforce conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Alan Walker drew on findings from the project to participate in an expert panel entitled 'equal opportunities and reducing inequalities', alongside Anne Sonnet, Senior Economist, OECD and Anne Drouin, Programme Director, International Labour Organisation. There were around 80-100 participants: policy makers from several EU countries (labour market, heath and social care), international organisations (ILO, OECD) and researchers. Both the audience and colleagues' views were influenced by the panel discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ceps.eu/events/policies-ageing-workforce-work-life-balance-working-conditions-and-equal-...
 
Description Policy Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on 'The Future of Work in an Ageing Society' to Expert Workshop organised by the Academy of Medical Sciences, London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Policy Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organisation of Workshop In the CROW/TAEN/LSE Older Workers series, held in Sheffield, plus keynote presentation on Extending Working Lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation to House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on 'The Social Consequences of Ageing', followed by discussion. 30+ Lords attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation in European Parliament 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact DH presented findings to the European Parliament from the project, specifically on policy issues in relation to gender inequalities in extending working lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019