48.3 Older women's employment: Pension crisis and crisis of care

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 11:15 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Sally BOULD , Sociology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Sara CASACA , ISEG, Technical University of Lisbon, lisbon, Portugal
The political economy of pension issues is highly gendered but current approaches often assume gender neutrality.  At these ages, 55-64, it is often assumed that women and men no longer have family responsibilities; thus gender differences are analyzed in terms of discrimination, labour market segmentation as well as overall earning disparities.   Older women however, typically have responsibility for parent care, a responsibility which is growing rapidly with population aging.  At the same time European Union (EU) labour policies are encouraging older women to stay engaged in the labour market under proposals to reduce their access to early retirement schemes.  In many countries women’s retirement age has been increased more than men’s.

The impact of these policies will be dramatically different for women under different welfare regimes.  The Nordic states already have relatively high employment rates for older women (Sweden 66.7%; Finland 56, Denmark 50.9%) but these welfare states have also provided for help with caring for elderly parents.  In the Mediterrean states women’s employment at older ages is quite low but the overwhelming responsibility for elderly family members falls on the women.  

This paper reviews the employment rates for women age 55-64 in the 15 original EU countries using the most recent Eurostat data.  The context is the availability of support available to older women for elder care under the different welfare regimes. Of critical importance in aging societies is the unpaid work of caregiving for the very old who need assistance in activities of daily living. Daughters and daughters-in-law overwhelmingly take on this role and this unpaid work needs to be recognized in current efforts to reduce public spending on pensions as well as other benefits, such as unemployment, which are currently supporting caregivers.