Gendered Retirement Transitions and the Unequal Distribution of Transitional Risks

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Anna Elisabeth WANKA, Goethe University Frankfurt on the Main, Germany
With the ageing of the ‘Baby Boomer’ cohort, more and more adults are transiting into retirement, and in parallel, institutional retirement pathways have evolved (e.g. bridge employment) or have been abolished (e.g. statutory retirement age). From this emerge new transitional risks that affect social groups in different ways. Research has shown that the retirement experiences differs between men and women (Martin-Matthews & Brown, 1988) due to gendered retirement trajectories (Fasang, 2010), and that these influence health and life-expectancy (Bloemen, 2013). Genderd transitions are the outcome of gendered life-courses and, accordingly, working conditions (Carr et al., 2016), organizational negotiations (Phillipson et al., 2016), and conditions for effective retirement planning (Moffatt & Heaven, 2017).

This paper asks how institutionalized pathways affect retirement experiences and transitional practices of older men and women, linking quantitative data from the German Survey of Transitions and Old Age Potentials to a qualitative longitudinal study that follows 15 older Germans throughout their retirement process. Other than most research it considers non-normative types of transitions, as retiring from unemployment or domestic work. Results show that differences in retirement experiences are less due to gender but gendered pathways into retirement. For example, the transition experience is more strainful for women transiting from gainful employment than men, but less for women transiting from domestic work. We also find gendered retirement roles that are shaped by gendered lifecourses: Men tend to increase involvement with grandchildren after retirement, as many feel they have not spent enough time with their children, whereas women aim to make up for limited chances to engage in education or leisure activities.

In the future, more emphasis should be placed on the retirement transitions of Baby Boomer women, who are increasingly part of the labour force, and the potential risks they entail for quality of life in older age.