Rethinking Retirement

  • Lain, David (PI)
  • Loretto, Wendy (CoPI)
  • Vickerstaff, Sarah (CoPI)

Project Details


The ESRC funded the Rethinking Retirement research seminar series coordinated by Dr David Lain (University of Brighton), Professor Wendy Loretto (University of Edinburgh) and Sarah Vickerstaff (University of Kent), which took place in 2011 and 2012.

This seminar series explored the extent to which retirement is changing, and likely to change, in future. Recognising that retirement changes are influenced by a multitude of factors, it brought together researchers from a range of different fields – including social policy, sociology, organisational behaviour, human resource management, industrial relations, gerontology, economics/finance, management psychology – alongside policy makers and practitioners from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the Age and Employment Network and other organisations.

Presenters and discussants were a mix of established and early career researchers, as well as policy makers and practitioners.

Five seminars were held across the country, exploring:
> changes to the context of retirement (Edinburgh)
> retirement incomes (London)
> work in older age (Manchester)
> activity, unpaid work and active ageing (Brighton) and
> the future of retirement (Kent).

The seminars aimed to:
> facilitate and encourage greater knowledge exchange and advance research in this field
> draw insight from the public sector, commercial private sector, civil society sector and other relevant organisations as well as from academic institutions
> make an impact on policy making in relation to employment of post retirement-age workers.

Seminar topics
> The Changing Context of Retirement, University of Edinburgh, 25 February 2011
> Retirement Incomes and Planning, London Metropolitan University, 6 May 2011
> Employment and Retirement, Manchester, Equality and Human Rights Commission, 4 November 2011
> Activity, Unpaid Work and Active Ageing, University of Brighton, 24 February 2012
> The Future of Retirement, University of Kent, 4 May 2012

Key findings

"Some of the more policy-focused papers covering employers' use of older workers and their attitudes towards them will prove useful in future policy work on the labour market, including in the development of national standards for employers."
Dave Perfect of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The seminar series allowed for a cross-disciplinary approach and built a research community interested in furthering discussion on the topic of rethinking retirement. A third of the 150 seminar participants came from non-academic backgrounds in policy, practice, service provision and the general public and it was evident that the impact varied greatly, depending upon their work.

Stephen Balchin, Head of Strategy and Analysis for Extending Working Lives at the Department for Work and Pensions stated that his policy work had been aided by knowledge gained on employment of post retirement-age workers. Findings presented also fed into a survey of job seekers over 50 conducted by the Age and Employment Network, after its Chief Executive Chris Ball participated in the seminar on employment. Given the policy relevance of the entire series, and the involvement of non-academic practitioners throughout, the findings have societal and economic relevance.

We disseminated research through two journal special issues. Social Policy and Society (January 2013) included papers covering UK pension reforms and was aimed at policy makers and practitioners, spreading impact beyond academia. The special issue of Employee Relations (October 2013) covered important contemporary issues such as the impact of the recession on employment of older people; trade unions and pension changes; and the opportunities and challenges facing small firms in relation to employing older people. It also examined employment transitions and motivations across a series of articles covering different occupational groups such as, managers, academics, and lower level workers.

More broadly, however, to leave a lasting legacy for societal and economic impact we focused on the production of five films that were accessible to general non-academic audiences. Researchers were interviewed alongside non-academic practitioners, and the resulting films discuss the key findings from the seminars. Consistent with our aim of promoting public debate, our films have had almost 1,900 viewings and David Lain has discussed retirement on the Voice of Russia Radio.
Effective start/end date1/01/1131/12/12


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