ages and cohorts


On Monday evening I went to an interesting meeting on older women and politics, at my old stomping ground Birkbeck (never miss an opportunity to promote it).  The event was convened by  two political scientists, Joni Lovenduski and Rosie Campbell.  They showed some evidence on  older women’s political attitudes, voting patterns and other issues, eg on retirement age.   Older women (already retired) are apparently more opposed to the raising of the State Pension Age than their younger counterparts.  Rosie interpreted this as a sign of altruism (i.e. these older women didn’t want the next generation to have to work longer);  I thought it could be looked at differently, that younger older women (if you see what I mean) may want to  work longer.

We also had very engaging presentations from Fiona McTaggart, MP for Slough, and the journalist Jackie Ashley.  Both have been involved in the Labour Party’s Commission on Older Women – Fiona in particular, as chair.   She made one  point which struck me as particularly relevant to the PP, on the right to request flexible working.  At first she had dismissed this as flimsy – merely permission to ask for something.  But now she thinks that making this right explicit has made a difference, even if this might be hard to quantify in any specific way.  It is helping  to change the climate about flexible work.  This is particularly important in respect of caring responsibilities, which is one of the Commission’s key themes.  But this is a major line of argument for the PP – that men as well as women should be more open to flexible working schedules.

The Commission’s interim report has just been published, and is well worth a read.   Amongst other things, it gives a fair place to the need for training opportunities for older women, either to maintain their skills or to enable them to resume careers which may have been interrupted or slowed down for childcare.   There is a major cohort effect at work here:  the current generation of older women workers (50+) are on average less well qualified than their male peers, but this is changing as the younger, and better qualified , cohort of women ages.  It makes the economic argument for ensuring that older women are included all the stronger.

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