The fast demographic change together with the growing life expectancy form one of the present global megatrends (Suomen eläkejärjestelmän... 2013, FuturAge 2011). The fact that the population is aging has forced developed countries to come up with new solutions in order to lengthen careers and to properly manage the rate of retirement. In Finland the discussion about the sustainability gap and careers has two focal points: the aim to shorten study times and early recruitment to labour market as well as the end of careers and pushing up the average age of retirement.
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.
The starting point for this research project is the paradox that is borne out of the need to extend careers as the statistical life expectancy of the population rises and of the fact that the current economical climate produces more and more unemployment, recurring rounds of lay-offs and the large-scale exit of the middle-aged as well as elderly labour force as they are deemed as the most expensive workers. What is more, the work seldom allows for flexibility that takes into account the changing working abilities. This can lead into age based discrimination in the labour market.
We will ask:
The classification of retirement age is an umbrella concept that encompasses all the topics of interest in this project. It enables us to grasp the retirement in media, in the day-to-day life as well as the reasons why and where the Finnish welfare state has succeeded and failed. As to the concept of a two-speed Finland we refer to new classification of retirement and being a pensioner: it creates differences between those who have studied a lot and are, typically, in academic professions, and those who are in blue collar positions. Two speeds also points to the fact that even within these groups there are differences and inequalities. Two speeds, then, does not simply follow socio-economic positions, education background or the blue and white collar divide. Instead, people are alienated from the labour market in a huge multiplicity of ways through disjointed and patchy careers.
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. The project also takes part in the sociological debate on transitions in age studies, retirement and the conceptual and methodological discussion concerning working life. 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). The newspaper data gathered in the project as well as the unique, longitudinal qualitative data set will facilitate the production of scientific analyses, articles and theses. On top of these YLE will produce media contents such as documentaries based on the research and journalistic interviews of the target group. Active communications about the results is a core part of the research project.
FuturAge. A roadmap for European ageing research. October 2011. www.futurage.group.shef.ac.uk
Suomen eläkejärjestelmän sopeutuminen eliniän pitenemiseen. [Adapting the Finnish pension structure to the growing lifetime expectancy]. Eläkekysymysten asiantuntijatyöryhmän raportti. Eläketurvakeskus, Tampere 2013.