The publication of a new report ‘Older Women and Work – Looking to the Future’ from the Scottish Commission on Older Women, brings to the fore the experiences of older women seeking to remain in, or re-enter, the labour market.
With rising numbers of women over the age of 50 in the labour market in Scotland, the report challenges Government, employers and trade unions to ensure the availability of good quality employment with sufficient flexibility and training opportunities, while recognising changing family and caring responsibilities.
Whilst some older women’s experiences have been positive, the Commission heard from older women speaking of a lack of opportunities, inflexible responses to additional caring responsibilities, poor health, and financial pressures.
Commission Co-chair Morag Alexander said: "This report is based on a review of existing literature and a new statistical analysis undertaken specifically for the Scottish Commission on Older Women. Most importantly, however, we drew on two years of consultations, round table meetings and conferences throughout Scotland where we listened to the voices and lived experiences of this neglected and often invisible generation. Older women spoke to us about their paid work and unpaid caring, and generously shared sometimes painful experiences of harassment and discrimination.'
Professor Wendy Loretto, Professor in Organisational Behaviour at University of Edinburgh Business School and Commission member said: “For too long the UK policy debate has ignored the complex challenges facing older women. Faced with a rising state pension age and welfare reforms, most Scottish women now face no choice but to work well into later life to make ends meet.
“Meanwhile they often have the added responsibility of providing unpaid care to elderly relatives, or for their grandchildren whose own parents are unable not to work. There is no quick fix to these challenges, but we all have a vested interest in addressing them.
“By starting a dialogue with this report we hope the UK and Scotland’s policy makers can work together with the country’s employers and trade unions to develop a new framework to reduce pressure on women working in later life, and unlock their economic potential for the benefit of Scotland as a whole.”
Anne Dean, GMB and Chair STUC Women’s Committee welcomed the Report “The STUC has heard many concerns in recent years, and this Report provides a welcome opportunity to discuss positive change. Older women have much to contribute in our society, and it’s time that we valued that contribution in the way it deserves.”