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Why are women more likely than men to extend paid work? The impact of work-family history on a decision to extend working life

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ConferenceSPA 2011 (UK Social Policy Association)
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityLincoln
Conference date(s)4/07/116/07/11

Publication details

DateUnpublished - 2011
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Extending working life, and enabling and encouraging people to work longer, is a key policy area. That women are more likely than men to work beyond state pension age indicates that factors other than the state pension age play a role in extending working life. Financial factors are likely to be a key reason why women, and especially divorced women, are more likely than men to extend working life. It is well documented that women are less able to build a pension income due to their role as carer within the family, with their marital and fertility histories impacting upon work history. It therefore follows that gender inequalities over the life course continue into older age to influence need, capacity and desire to undertake paid work after state pension age. This paper explores how work, marital and fertility history impact upon the likelihood of working beyond state pension age, focusing upon differences between men and women. It uses the British Household Panel Survey’s retrospective data from the first 14 waves to summarise work-family histories, and logistic regression to understand the impact of work and family histories on working beyond state pension age.

Findings show that, for women, family history is important for explaining a greater propensity to work beyond state pension age, with short breaks due to caring, lengthy marriages, and late divorce and remaining single with children all being important. However, lengthy dis-attachment (due to caring) from the labour market, and thus lowered negotiating power, makes working longer more difficult. For men, even short periods out of the labour market reduce their odds of working longer. This indicates that, on the one hand, policy needs to focus upon reducing the financial need to work longer by tackling gender inequalities in the labour market. On the other, to enable those most in financial need to work longer, more help needs to be given to increase their negotiating power in the labour market.

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