The Centre for Ageing and Inequalities at Newcastle University was delighted to host the online book launch for ‘Older Workers in Transition: European Experiences in a Neoliberal Era’. It was held on 3rd November 2022, and it celebrated the recent publication of this new edited volume from Bristol University Press.

Book editor David Lain welcomed participants. Co-editor Sarah Vickerstaff then explained the background to the publication. The book explores older workers’ experiences of different types of transitions, including redeployment within the firm, temporary employment, and attempts to leave unemployment. It was argued that such transitions are increasingly important in the context of pressures to extend working lives in Europe and elsewhere.

Chris Phillipson discussed how job transitions in older age have been influenced historically by different pressures.  He plotted the development of retirement in the 1950s and 1960s, and the move towards extended working lives since the 1990s. This move to extended working lives, it was argued, coincided with the rise of more precarious forms of employment. Chris Phillipson suggested that these changes were often presented as offering people more choice, but in reality they resulted in greater degrees of risk.

Following on from this, David Lain gave an overview of the book, focusing on the empirical chapters. These were written by leading scholars, who drew on their qualitative research to explore the lived experiences of older workers. It was argued that see a consistent influence of ‘neoliberal responsibilisation’ across the diverse range of countries covered. This a political trend shifts responsibility onto the older person to choose to take whatever job opportunities are available to them, while providing limited support to help them make such transitions.

Áine Ní Léime gave the final presentation, discussing her chapter on older care workers and teachers in Ireland. It was argued that care workers in her research expected to work significantly longer than teachers, due to the financial consequences of low-paid work over the life course. This highlights inequalities that are likely to occur as a result of extended working lives.

Older Workers in Transition is the first book in ‘Rethinking Work and Retirement’ book series. Co-editor Mariska van der Horst closed the session by discussing forthcoming books from series, and opportunities to write for it.

You can see a recording of the event here.