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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Toward a new policy of life course flexibility

Published: 10 February 2011 Origin:  Social Statistics and Demography

Professor Jane Falkingham is one of the leading European demographers adding to the debate on meeting the challenge of population ageing in a new policy brief.

Increased longevity will soon make old age a widespread phenomenon throughout Europe. Increasing the retirement age to meet the challenge of population ageing is frequently debated in Europe, with a key question of how long people can continue working at higher ages. However, increasing the age of retirement is only one strategy, this new work states that redistributing work over the life-course and introducing a unified social insurance is much more relevant solution "We have to redistribute work over the life-course" says James W. Vaupel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and co-author of a new policy brief published by Population Europe, a newly established network of Europe's leading demographic research centres.

Demographic evidence shows that healthy life expectancy has increased dramatically over the few last decades. Thus, extending the time spent in work beyond the current age of retirement could provide people with more freedom of choice and the flexibility to reduce working hours in earlier periods of their life. "If people worked fewer hours per week, many more people would work; so work would be more evenly redistributed over the life-course and across people", say the authors. "It would also slow down the current 'rush hour' of life and enable people to have more time to raise their children and invest in their own further training and education".

Regarding social policy, the authors of the paper suggest developing policies that are sensitive to the life-course and allow for redistribution of income both within a person's lifetime and across members of society. "One option could be a 'unified social insurance', which would operate as a savings bank across the life-course", says co-author Jane Falkingham , director of the ESRC Research Centre for Population Change . This fund would provide "insurance" for periods of education, retirement, and other phases outside the labour market.

For the full article please take a look at the Population Europe 'Population & Policy Compact 01/2011' .

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