Short introduction (aim, goal of project, when did this project start?)

The project “Social inequalities in extending working lives of an ageing workforce – EXTEND” started in April 2016. It investigates social inequalities in late career, retirement transitions and the post retirement phase against the context of current retirement and pension polices in most European countries aimed at extending working lives. The interdisciplinary EXTEND team includes experts from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark and Germany.   The research focuses not only on the societal macro level but explicitly looks into a sector (the social services sector) where the goal of longer working lives is confronted with particular barriers which disproportionately affects health- and care-professionals. The research is “solution driven” in that the project is looking for innovative solutions on different levels, including pension- and retirement policies, improving the employability of an ageing workforce, measures for healthy ageing in work.

The most prominent objective of the project is to reduce social inequalities in retirement structures, which is necessary if extending working life is to become an alternative for many and not just for those already privileged in their employment prospects during their earlier working life.

What kind of impact on the society is expected?

EXTEND will not only inform decision making bodies on different levels of responsibility about the challenges and their respective implications but also aims for innovative solutions. These will refer to all levels (macro, meso, micro) addressed by EXTEND`s research agenda, including policy makers (supra-national, national, regional, local), stakeholders, NGOs, social partners, companies and individuals. It will extend the “solution driven” research also to the social services sector and here with respect to the identified “problem groups” (e.g. professional caregivers). In this context we also plan to carry out cost-benefit analyses for innovative and profitable solutions which will be particularly important for dissemination.

Which phase of your project are you at the moment? 

The work of EXTEND is well on plan. In all work packages we have drafts of working papers, which will be turned into book chapters, journal articles, policy briefs, blog posts and conference presentations in the next 13 months. So far we have eleven working papers and presented the project over 15 times at international and national scientific and stakeholder conferences.

Did  you already get any preliminary results?

EXTEND has several preliminary results. We wrote a conceptual framework, in which based on different theoretical approaches, we developed the leading hypothesis: The measures to achieve extension of working lives will exacerbate social inequalities that have existed during the life-course and will lead to increasingly greater inequality. This hypothesis is now being tested in the work packages. We find that from a country level perspective the pension and labor market reforms aimed at extending working lives are increasing social inequalities. In addition, first simulations show that linking the statutory retirement age to life expectancy seems to even deepen economic inequalities between privileged and unprivileged groups (e.g. low-skilled or long-term unemployed). We furthermore conducted panel-analyses and find educational differences in pre- and postretirement health. Finally, we also identify sectoral differences in the possibilities of extending working lives and find that it is especially difficult to delay retirement in the health and care sector. However, our results are not limited to concerns of growing social inequality. We also offer solutions. We started a collection of good practices that have proven to reduce social inequalities in late career and retirement and in the best case are cost-neutral or even save money for the government or company implementing them. We also developed an intervention program for the company level that helps older workers to extend working lives and which seems to be in particular helpful for the low-educated.

Could you summarize these results?

The new credo of late retirement with the policy and company measures aimed at extending working lives are increasing social inequalities. However, measures at the policy and also at company level can be developed to mitigate these growing inequalities.

Are the results in line with your a priori expectation?

Indeed, overall the results are in line with our expectations and also our leading hypothesis.

Did your project receive some external feedback (from possible stakeholder, national journals, etc…)?

Work from EXTEND has been presented at several scientific and stakeholder conferences. Furthermore, work has been submitted to scientific journals with peer-review process and we received first positive feedback. EXTEND as a whole was discussed with the project’s advisory board at a meeting in May 2017. The respective feedback was very encouraging and immensely helpful.

What are the phases planned for the immediate future? 

The 5th internal EXTEND workshop will take place at the beginning of November in Amsterdam. In addition, the EXTEND webpage will be launched shortly after the meeting. We are also looking forward to the JPI MYBL conference in Brussel in February 2018.

Download the project’s brochure.

Download the project’s conference poster.