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Towards a Two-speed Finland? – Longer Working Life, Retirement Pathways and Inequality

This research project focuses on the day-to-day life and agency of the elderly unemployed. Ageing and demographic change are global megatrends that challenge the labour market in many ways. Prolonging work careers and treating the elderly worker as a resource are ideals often voiced in political rhetoric. Paradoxically, however, age-based inequality, and ageism in the workplace means that elderly workers are, simultaneously, moved into early retirement or made redundant as part of cooperation negotiation.

In our research project we study the aim of extending careers at their end from the viewpoint of an ever more heterogeneous group of aged workers. While the political debate, media coverage and the ongoing pension reform are largely based on demographic statistics and the idea of an “average worker”, this research project focuses on the day-to-day life of the people who are left unemployed of retire as a result of corporate lay-offs. This is done via a longitudinal qualitative approach as well as utilising media analysis. On top of these, survey data will be collected. This research challenges the idea of a “one size fits all” paradigm that is simply based on chronological age. Instead, we emphasize the great variation there is in the population that is close to retirement, their agency and their ability to decide for their own.

We will ask:

  • What processes of inclusion and exclusion, also related to age based discrimination, are relevant to aged workers? How do they account for their retirement, the timing of it as well as their own well-being?
  • How to break a period of unemployment that takes place in the later years of an individual career and how to break through back to work life?
  • Who, in the end, will have the chance to extend their careers? What is the impact of ending up as unemployed in terms of daily coping, well-being as well as the notion of future pensioners?
  • How is the reality of retirement constructed in the present day media and how do the aged workers themselves account for their careers and their working abilities?

The research project will produce new knowledge about the possibilities of the aged workers’ chances of keeping up with the labour markets as well as their coping strategies and adaptation in relation to retirement. What is more, on top of the  empirical results the project will ignite public discussion and debate as our results will be publicized via the Finland’s national public service broadcasting company (YLE).

Kone Foundation and Työsuojelurahasto

Research group
Pirjo Nikander (principal investigator),
Kirsi Lumme-Sandt,
Clas-Håkan Nygård,
Jari Luomanen,
Anna Siukola,
Elisa Virkola,

More information

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