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Title: Workforce reduction, older workers and public policy
Author: Desmond, Helen J.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3422 8140
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis explores the hypothesis that the existing statutory and regulatory framework relating to redundancy and pensions relating to redundancy and pensions encourage employers to adopt workforce reduction strategies that discriminate against older workers. In testing this thesis primary data were collected utilising a case study approach, studies being carried out at three of the Big Four high street banks to identify their workforce reduction strategies and the factors shaping them. It is argued that three main factors encourage employers to adopt workforce reduction strategies that have particular implications for older workers: the existing legal and regulatory framework relating to redundancy, which is perceived by employers to threaten their ability to control the redundancy selection process; the existence of pension funds and the statutory and regulatory framework relating to pensions, which enables the cost implications of redundancy to be alleviated or eliminated, and a desire by employers to avoid disruption and conflict, which has led to the preferences of unions and financial market analysts being taken into account. It is argued that these factors have encouraged the use of early exit schemes, which has concentrated redundancies on older workers. Age prejudice experienced by older workers makes it difficult for them to re-enter the labour market and those aged 50 and over remain unemployed for longer than any other age group. This has led to what has been referred to as a collapse in employment amongst older workers and an increase in economic inactivity, as older men in particular, withdraw from the labour market, preferring to be labelled retired as opposed to unemployed. Taken together with existing and projected demographic change, the economic and social implications of high rates of economic inactivity amongst older workers has brought about a policy shift towards older workers generally. Supply-side responses in the UK have been statutorily based, with key objectives being to encourage inactive older workers to return to the labour market and to make it less attractive for them to remain economically inactive. Meanwhile, demand-side responses have been ambivalent and have concentrated on a succession of voluntary campaigns to encourage employers to value diversity and to retain and recruit older workers. It is argued that the statutory and regulatory frameworks relating to redundancy and pensions have not been reformed, and voluntary campaigns have done little to displace employer and trade union preferences for exit strategies that disproportionally affect older workers. Demand-side responses are increasingly being affected by European Union policy. In particular, by the Employment Guidelines, which encourage the promotion of social inclusion throughout the European Union. Most recently the Framework Directive has come into force, reflecting supra-national policy concerns about early exit from the labour market and the economic and social implications of high levels of economic inactivity amongst older workers. This thesis offers a theoretical and empirical contribution to the public policy debate on early exit from the labour market at a time when the UK Government is contemplating embarking on consultations over specific legislation regarding age discrimination. As the implications of demographic change begin to affect employment policy, the thesis also informs the debate on the more general policy issues surrounding the length of working life.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD28 Management. Industrial Management ; HG Finance