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Accumulated Disadvantage Extends into Retirement

Published 01/10/2019


The ESRI report published today, 1 October 2019, ‘The ageing workforce in Ireland: working conditions, health and extending working lives’ shows that accumulated disadvantages seen throughout the working life are evident – and often exacerbated – well into retirement, particularly for women and those working in physically demanding roles.

The report notes an increased level of people over 55 years old working in Ireland (up from 10% in 1998 to 20% in 2018), which is well above the OECD average. However, there is wide variance in who is remaining working for longer, and whether that is for choice or necessity. Almost 7% of those aged 55-59 left employment early due to family care, with women five times more likely to have left paid employment early for care duty reasons. Today, one in ten people is a carer in Ireland, with 61% of carers being women. The State needs to value unpaid work and ensures that structural barriers to working, while balancing caring duties, are addressed in order to mitigate against accumulated disadvantage when people, and women in particular, become eligible for a pension.

Additional research published today is an Irish Life report which also notes the impact on women of disrupted labour patterns within the existing pay gap. The report shows that women have an average of 22% less – or €120,000 – in their pension pot at retirement compared to men. This is true even in cases where women are making the same pension contributions as men, and likely reflects the existing gender pay gap and lower wages earned by women.

Simply, the current employment disadvantages will transfer into pension disadvantages. In the context of rising State pension ages, targeted efforts are needed. Government and industry efforts are urgently needed to address the structural barriers that impede women, parents and carers to remain in, or return to, the labour market, if that is their choice.  Measures such as flexible working approaches and hours, targeted employment training interventions and reskilling are some such measures. These will only work in conjunction with the availability of affordable and secure childcare as well as sufficient home care hours available under a statutory scheme.

The journey to equality in older age begins at an earlier age. Both these reports are evidence that disadvantages in our working lives extend into the range of choices available to us all in older age, including access to employment as well as adequate income security.




Progress on efforts to implement a human-rights based approach to health and social care

Age Action welcomes today’s publication of the ‘Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services’ published today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in conjunction with Safeguarding Ireland.

Age Action supports a rights-based approach which empowers people to know and claim their rights. If people know and claim their rights in how they decide what health and social care services they wish to receive, this will in turn impact the quality of health and social care services as providers will be held to account to higher standards of person-centred care.

In addition to existing HIQA standards, today’s publication is a welcome resource to assist both service users and staff and organisations working with adults across health and social care services to understand how human rights principles apply in health and social care services on a day-to-day basis.

We are pleased to see that the publication includes discussion on the complex situations that occur in practice where many factors need to be considered, such as balancing an individual’s will and preferences, and – at times – competing human rights. We hope to see a better understanding across health and social care services of how to uphold human rights, and better guidance for staff in practice in overcoming the challenges that arise when the organisational protocols are seemingly at odds with a rights-based approach e.g. options for transgender people in single sex residential units.

Age Action remains disappointed that significant legislative and policy gaps continue to exist in the area. While enacted, the new Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will not be commenced until Q4 2020. Key elements which should be fast-tracked for commencement include: Arrangements for the making of Enduring Powers of Attorney; a legal framework for Advance Healthcare Directives. In addition, related legislation on the deprivation of liberty - which will provide safeguards for people living in or going to live in residential settings – has also seen delays in its progress into law.

An Adult Safeguarding Bill has been in development since 2017 to replace or cover out of date or non-existent legislation in the area. When underpinned by a regulatory framework for adult safeguarding, this will provide for the protection of at risk adults and statutory powers to ensure adherence.

The expedition of these legislative and resulting policy changes will ensure that rights, freedoms and dignity of people are promoted and protected.