Older workers in changing social policy patterns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Compared to other European countries, the employment rate of older workers in Belgium is rather low. This paper argues that one of the most relevant factors underlying the problems of this low employment rate in Belgium is the social policies directed at older workers. Indeed, when unemployment became a widespread phenomenon in the1970s and 80s, early-retirement schemes were designed to alleviate the financial implications on an aging workforce. The government encouraged anyone over 50 to leave the labour market through early retirement schemes, unemployment payment programs, medical retirement, and career breaks. These practises were based on a wide consensus of government, business, and workers. However, for some years now, international organizations have been concerned about the viability of pension systems and their ability to achieve their objectives. In recent years, different factors have led policy makers to rethink this policy. But changing the trend and keeping people on the job has proven more difficult than foreseen. The transformations of public policies begun at the dawn of the 21st century radically changed the balance between the state, workers, and employers, who had all previously seen early retirement as favourable. This paper also tries to show how early retirement is not simply a desire to escape, but can also be explained as an aggression against the person by the labour market. Leaving professional life early thus seems more to be a case of necessity, in fact not a choice at all, but an obligation, or even a sacrifice, and must be seen in the perspective of professional duties and their evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-171
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Social Justice
Volume3
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

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