Experiences and Pension Expectations of Older Women Workers in Ireland and the US – a Lifecourse Analysis

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Aine NI LEIME, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Nata DUVVURY, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
This paper focuses on the experiences, health and pension outcomes and retirement plans of older women workers in Ireland and the U.S. This is an issue of current societal importance in the context of both government’s introduction of policies designed to extend working life. The latter policies are typically presented as benign and as offering the best solution to the pension demands created by demographic ageing. While it is acknowledged that women typically have poorer incomes and pensions than men, there remains a need to explore how women in different occupations may have very different outcomes in the years approaching retirement (Ginn, 2004, Ginn and MacIntyre, 2013). The fact that this paper adopts a feminist political economy of ageing approach to policy analysis allows interrogation of how welfare state arrangements may affect the experiences of older women workers and their plans for working into retirement. It is based on interviews with 30 women in Ireland and 30 women in the US, in three different occupations – health care workers, teachers and academic faculty - analysed using a lifecourse perspective. The qualitative life-course approach applying a critical feminist lens enables tracking of how individual workers at a micro-level experience changes in policy at a macro-level. There are some similarities in experiences for women in terms of being expected to provide unpaid care for family members. However, there are major differences in income, pension prospects and attitudes to late work between those in low-paid, physically-demanding work and those in high-paid sedentary work. It appears that union membership and better conditions experienced by public sector workers offers some protection, while those in precarious employment are vulnerable to poor health and low pension outcomes. The implications for policy and for future research are discussed in the context of Extended Working Life policies.