Sociology of Aging
Week 8 Class Notes: Work, Employment, and Retirement
Employment is a central life course experience that connects our lives to a complex, modern economy. Here are
some of the key ideas we will discuss:
• Basic concepts and models describing aging, employment, and the life course
• What are some of the challenges faced by older workers?
I. Key concepts:
Employment vs. work
Work can include productive activity that is not included under formal employment
Labour market vs. labour force
Labour market refers to a demand for employees; labour force refers to the available set of potential employees
II. The occupational life cycle model
The idea that there is a set time for completion of education, beginning a career, hitting typical milestones and
promotions, and retiring
Note: the olcm refers to a general model for employment and the life course; David Eckerdt’s article “No
Career for You” also refers to “careers”—people’s individual job trajectories. The two concepts are very
similar, though distinct.
Observers note that the occupational life cycle is in decline. Several influences include:
- mergers and acquisitions
- out-sourcing and foreign competition - job automation by technology
The economy increasingly favours a contingent labour force (similar to the idea of a day labourer).
What can be done about growing de-standardization of the occupational life cycle?
Some observers champion a multiple careers solution:
Get training, work, and then get re-trained for a different type of job. Proponents say this could alleviate
worker boredom and may better fit the modern economy.
But are social institutions well-suited for this model? Structural lag refers to the inability of institutions
to keep pace with the life course needs of individuals in recent cohorts.
III. Older workers in the modern labor market
Older workers face several challenges in the labour market:
A. Labour market (macro-economic) dynamics
B. Attitudes and stereotypes about skills and employability
A. Labour market issues
- What influences the “value” of older workers?
- In which sectors or jobs do older people tend to work?
B. Attitudes and stereotypes about older adults’ skills and employability
Ageism: reportedly pervasive, but hard to document
- Job termination, hiring decisions, unequal promotion and compensation, different degrees of discipline,
unequal access to training - Experimental studies
- Other studies find that managers and human resources personnel rate older workers as: