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Extending working lives


The study is contributing to knowledge about the processes and factors which exert influence on working in later life, with the aim of enhancing policy development and employer practices. The programme of work is aiming to build research capacity in this area. The study has examined the changes affecting individuals and organisations given radical modifications to the traditional life course. A life course built around stable periods of work and retirement is breaking down in the context of more unstable 'work endings': these linked with different opportunities for extending work, varied health and financial circumstances, and contrasting family and domestic circumstances.

Achieving the above research aim has entailed the following objectives:

  • Building a multi-level model of the determinants of retirement age, using existing longitudinal data sets: ELSA, NCDS and the US HRS to map existing and emerging late-career transitions.
  • Conducting a number of work-based case studies to understand the way in which processes associated with extended working life are negotiated within the workplace.
  • Synthesising findings from the quantitative and qualitative data to produce new theoretical models about the changing character of late career transitions, these being used to inform policies and employer practices relating to extending working life.

The research questions, of equal priority, are to investigate:

  1. What evidence can be found for new 'late career transitions' developing in the UK? How do these compare with other major industrial countries?
  2. How is the life course being re-shaped in the context of changing transitions from work to retirement? What are the influence of life course risks on later life patterns?
  3. How is the idea of 'extended working life' being constructed within the workplace?
  4. What is the impact of late career transitions on work place practices, training, human resources and occupational health policies?

The proposed research - through the linkage of both quantitative data and case studies - is making a distinctive contribution to our appreciation of the drivers and inhibitors for extending working life. The research is enhancing our understanding about the range of late career transitions and the social gradients which structure opportunities and risks; it is providing the basis for developing new theoretical approaches to new forms of risk and uncertainty in the middle and later stages of the life course.

The research has built capacity in this area of research by bringing together a team which spans the academic life cycle, with early, middle and late career researchers, which contributes to the inter-disciplinary and inter-generational transfer of ideas and skills and has offered opportunities to a PhD student (funded by the University of Bath) and a number of post-docs to be mentored in the development of their own independent careers.

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Last Updated: 24/02/2023