Extended Working Lives: Feasible and Desirable for All?

  • David LainEmail author
  • Mariska van der Horst
  • Sarah Vickerstaff


There is now a broad political consensus in many OECD countries that people will have to work longer on average than in the past, and governments are raising state pension ages. This issue is often presented in terms of the individual’s responsibility to work longer, but the reality is more complicated and raises serious ethical questions. Is it the responsibility of everyone to continue working into older age, when some individuals may not want or feel able to work because of health conditions that were perhaps exacerbated by a lifetime of physically arduous employment? Is it always a successful outcome if individuals remain in employment, or are there circumstances when we should not expect them to work if they feel this is the best option? This chapter addresses these questions through an analysis of the US Health and Retirement Study and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. This analysis shows that in both countries, significant numbers of individuals aged 65+ remain in work when they have poor health and/or do physically demanding work. Drawing on qualitative research on older UK hospitality workers doing physically demanding work, it is argued that it is not always feasible or desirable to expect people to work longer, something that policy urgently needs to recognize.


Extended working lives Raising state pension age Working longer 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Lain
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mariska van der Horst
    • 2
  • Sarah Vickerstaff
    • 3
  1. 1.Newcastle University Business SchoolNewcastle upon TyneUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamNetherlands
  3. 3.School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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