Capitalism and the Construction of Old Age by Professor Chris Phillipson

By Professor Chris Phillipson

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Here are three car workers from the Midlands describing their final day: 3 When I retired I had a ruddy great lump come in me throat I couldn't help it ... you can't help it, when you get lads like that ... that you've been with for a long time. Well you're a bit jittery at leaving your work-mates ... I went down there a week or two afterwards and had a chat with them. It didn't hit me until the next week on the Monday night, a lot of them come along here to go to the works and the wife and I were sat watching the television and from quarter to eight till about ten past was just one continual peep, peep, peep ...

G. cotton, shipbuilding, mining, had raised unemployment to crisis levels, and the search for ways of easing the situation was now to dominate political debate. In this context older workers were an im- THE EMERGENCE OF RETIREMENT 23 mediate focus of attention. As early as 1924 Philip Snowden, Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, had suggested that in times of unemployment the old should retire, and this theme was to be taken up at party and trade-union conferences in the following years. A report adopted by the TUC Congress in 1929 on industrial reorganisation and industrial relations suggested that If by some more liberal retiring allowance than the present [pension] affords, a greater inducement could be given to those above the age of 65 to take a well earned rest from their work to allow the younger men, who are waiting for a job, to come in to their place, then a step forward would be taken in both industrial efficiency and in diminishing the numbers of those who today are on the Unemployment Register.

Yet the main MEN IN RETIREMENT AND OLD AGE 45 difficulty people will face is not a sense of boredom or frustration through being deprived of work, but bewilderment about how retirement is to be coped with, given a drastic drop in income and possibly poor health. For many workers physical decline begins in their fifties and sixties, making work more of a burden. In the United Kingdom 30-35 per cent of manual workers and 23 per cent of non-manual workers are likely to be in poor health by the age of 65 (Shephard, 1978).

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