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Int J Health Serv. 2006;36(1):1-23.

Can they carry on working? Later retirement, health, and social inequality in an aging population.

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Institute for Social, Cultural and Policy Research, University of Salford, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom.


In debates on pensions and retirement age, little attention has been paid to the relation between increased effective retirement age and the health of the older population. This article focuses on Britain at a crucial point in the past, when the reconstruction that followed recession in the late 1970s and early 1980s used previously accumulated pension and redundancy funds to pay off workers and make labor markets "flexible." Using secondary data analysis of surveys of the same nationally representative sample in 1984 and 1991, the author argues that, while early retirement and retirement at age 60 (women) and 65 (men) took many able-bodied people out of the labor force, every increase in retirement age would have faced diminishing returns. Moreover, unemployment and exit from the labor market were accompanied in most cases by a perceived decline in well-being. The findings suggest that retirement should be tapered, not abrupt. Finally, there was pronounced inequality in the aging process that would have led to a situation in which a uniform policy on later retirement deepened the disadvantage of those least able to fend for themselves. Accordingly, the present U.K. government should positively discriminate in favor of the disadvantaged at retirement by reinforcing the state pension.

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