On Friday 25th November, we attended the report launch of “Low Paid Older Workers: A quantitative and qualitative profile of low pay among workers aged over 50”. This research report, spearheaded by Dr. Micheál L. Collins and Dr. Catherine Elliot O’ Dare, examines the historically underexplored group of older workers in low pay. It brings together themes of ageing populations, labour market earnings and living conditions.
Dr. Collins presented some of the key findings which are briefly outlined below:
- 1 in 6 workers aged 50+ are in low paid jobs
- Older workers make up one fifth of the total low paid population
- Inadequacy of pension income influenced older workers to take-up or remain-in low paid jobs
- Older workers are more likely to work less than 20 hours per week or on a part-time basis
- Older workers are more likely to be working in administration and health/caring roles
- Older workers generally have lower levels of completed education, tend to hold permanent positions or work in smaller firms
- Low paid older workers are more likely to live in 1 or 2 Adult households and own the property they live in (Approx. 55%).
- The participants in this study perceived their pay as inadequate.
Dr. O’ Dare mentioned that participants portrayed the attitude of low-income jobs as being a better option than receiving a low-rate pension. She explored the precariousness of caring work which has been seen to affect a larger number of women thus further enshrining a gender division in this area. She noted that older low pay workers tend to remain as such due to their level of skill or lack of opportunity to develop new skills in order to progress.
Dr. Nat O’Connor from Age Action offered some stark figures around this particular age cohort, highlighting that 1 in 4 people in Ireland are aged 60 or over. He brought attention to the severe lack of data on the 50 to 64 age group and recommended that the Central Statistics Office consider this age bracket as over half a million workers in Ireland are aged 55+. Furthermore, older adults are more likely to be in long-term unemployment due to a lack of opportunities, ageist employers and the mandatory retirement age also being a factor.
Dr. Anne-Marie McGauran from the National Economic and Social Council offered some possible solutions to address the “Sticky State” or people stuck in low pay jobs. Improving educational attainment overall, would improve opportunities for low-paid workers. She questioned whether or not we could find a way of recognising life-skills or other valuable contributions of the older worker in order to qualify for a specific job. There needs to be a means to facilitate and reshape the care sector while recognising hidden care work. She also suggested that Ireland should look at creating schemes or opportunities for part-time work or job-sharing, for retirees or people nearing retirement.
For more information, you can access the full report by clicking here.