Grandma, when will you retire? 60, 65….70….75?
The concept of the ‘ladies who lunch’ – while their husbands do the decent thing and work nice and hard to keep them – has become very much a thing of the past. The ladies who lunch are now usually of the retired golden generation, enjoying an occupational pension that started at 65 or even 60, just that one generation before the ladder was pulled up out of reach. Or they are a lady who has the good luck to be married to a good pension. But for most women, not only do they have to do two jobs during the pre-school years, one at home and one at work, they have the prospect of working until much later, because they will have no pension worth having of their own and they are not married to one. They will be obliged to work through the young years of their own children and then work through the young years of their grand-children.
Older women at work are often part-time. Many of these will spend their days off doing the alternative work of providing child-care for grandchildren, because the younger women in the family are having to work to pay the rent or the mortgage. And so it goes on, the expansion of the economic need to work reducing the choices won by feminism, and turning them into no-choice necessities. The right for a mother to return to work without sex discrimination, and the right for an older women to carry on working without age discrimination, are not equalled by the economic freedom to choose and arguably have helped to destroy it. Of course some would like to work anyway, for the love of it, but research so often unsurprisingly shows that, given enough money, women with small children would stay at home and older women would leave work – perhaps they would have lunch together!
The reality of inflated house prices and rents and the reduction in pension values, has led to the depressing government prediction that twice the proportion of women born in the 1970’s and 1980’s will work to the age of 74, compared to women born in the 1950’s. The Office for Budgetary Responsibility published a report on 10 July 2014 which predicts that about 10% of women born in the 1970’s and 1980’s will work for a further decade past the old default retirement age of 65, compared with 5% of women born in the 1950’s.
It’s happening already, probably in a home or workplace near you. Government figures tell us that in this last quarter the number of women still at work after reaching 65 years has increased by 27,000 to 435,000. Good for them, if they want work. But what a pity that our economic situation means that we, and they, and the men in our lives, will increasingly not have the opportunity to choose. I’m a lady and I would quite like the chance to take lunch……
Frances Barker is Employment Partner at Blockslegal LLP