125 Int'l Lab. Rev. 329 (1986)
Labour Flexibility and Older Worker Marginalisation: The Need for a New Strategy

handle is hein.journals/intlr125 and id is 343 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 125, No. 3, May-June 1986

Labour flexibility and older worker
marginalisation: The
need for a new strategy
Guy STANDING *
A man's years should not be counted,
until he has nothing else to count.
R. W. Emerson
I. Introduction
In Western Europe mass unemployment has hit some groups particu-
larly hard. Much attention has been devoted to teenagers whose efforts to
enter the employed labour force have been frustrated by the limited
availability of new jobs. Far less attention has been paid to workers in their
fifties and sixties who have been those most affected by the job-shedding that
has gone on since the mid-1970s. One difficulty is that their plight is
concealed by the statistics typically used as indicators of labour market
performance. This article considers the extent of labour underutilisation
among older workers, reviews the factors that have influenced their absolute
and relative vulnerability, and argues that changes in patterns of labour use
and the chronic labour surplus require new forms of income support if older
workers are not to be marginalised and, in many cases, pushed into
premature poverty.
II. The employment of older workers in Western Europe
The measured unemployment rate is not the best indicator of older
workers' labour market position. Many older workers withdraw from the
labour market if unemployed, either in discouragement or into early
retirement, and, as argued later, these tendencies have been accentuated
with the lowering of the normal retirement age and as a result of policy
shifts.
Those shifts have been dramatic. In the 1950s and 1960s the emphasis in
the tight labour markets of industrialised countries, including the United
States and Western Europe, was on keeping older workers in the labour
* International Labour Office.

Copyright © International Labour Organisation 1986

32-9

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