Older Workers in a Globalizing World

Older Workers in a Globalizing World

An International Comparison of Retirement and Late-Career Patterns in Western Industrialized Countries

Dirk Hofäcker

This timely book investigates the growth of the early retirement trend and its varying spread among different groups of older workers in fourteen modern societies. It argues for a differentiated political approach to reverse early retirement, which relies on both pension and employability policies for older workers.

Chapter 2: State of the Art in Social Science Research

Dirk Hofäcker

Subjects: social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, labour policy


INTRODUCTION The framework to be developed in this work in order to explain late careers in modern societies naturally ‘stands on the shoulders of giants’ in so far as it refers back to existing theories aimed at analyzing the changing relation of work and retirement in recent decades. Though intensive public and scientific dispute about early retirement is a more recent phenomenon, early retirement represents a long-term process whose first lines can be traced back empirically to the 1950s (Hofäcker and Pollnerová 2006). Nonetheless, in the economic boom period of the 1950s and early 1960s, most societies still welcomed a thorough labor-force integration of older workers – possibly to guarantee the supply of manpower in the economically flourishing post-war economies. Since the 1970s, however, early retirement significantly started to increase in most Western societies (ibid.: 28ff.) and so did public and scientific attention to it. The American Business Week journal, for example, reported in 1972 that formal retirement ages had increasingly lost their importance in the US, and that early retirement had ‘won accepted status’ (Business Week 1972). Older workers increasingly were identified as a problematic group in the labor market that suffered disproportionately from economic downturns and deteriorating labor market conditions and faced a high risk of becoming pushed out into unemployment or involuntary retirement (Rosenblum 1974, 1975; US Government 1971). National and international organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the United Nations (Feldman 1975; Schuchat 1975) soon became aware of this process. A major international...

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