There is a global imperative to respond to the challenge of a growing 'old-age dependency ratio' by ensuring the workforce is healthy enough to remain in work for longer. Currently more than half of older workers leave before the default retirement age, and in some countries (e.g. the UK), the time spent in retirement is increasing. At the same time across Europe, there is a gender employment gap, with 14.5% fewer female workers between 55-64 years old, and a large variation in the participation of older women in the workforce (ranging from 30-75%). As older women are under-represented in the workforce, increasing employment in this group has the propensity to go some way towards reducing the old-age dependency ratio to ensure continued economic growth.
This review explores the barriers and facilitators to extended working lives in Europe, particularly those that impact on women.
A systematic mapping review process was undertaken using four electronic databases, MEDLINE, PsychoINFO, PsychEXTRA via Ovid and AgeLine via EBSCO, using the terms, 'work', 'ageing', 'retirement', 'pension', 'old', 'barrier', 'extended working life', 'gender' and 'health and well-being'. Hand searching was also carried out in theInternational Journal of Aging and Human Developmentand theInternational Journal of Aging and Society.
The search resulted in 15 English language studies published from 1st January 2005 to the current date that met the inclusion criteria.
The key factors that influenced decisions to retire or extend working lives in Europe were health, social factors, workplace factors, and financial security and pension arrangements.
Health was found to be the most commonly cited barrier to extended working lives in Europe, and a number of social inequalities to work exist by gender. Structural factors exist, such as the gender pay gap, which disadvantages women, while the nature of work itself differs by gender and can have a negative impact on health. Currently, women tend to exit the labour market earlier than men; however, changes in the state pension age are resulting in women being required to work for as long as men, in most countries. For women to remain healthy at work, workplaces need to consider a range of interventions, including flexible arrangements to both work and retirement to enable women to balance the demands of work with domestic and caring responsibilities that particularly impact on them.