Calls For Action On Older Women In Work

Government and employers have failed to keep up with the challenges older women face in the workplace, leaving many feeling "invisible'', a new report has found.

The Scottish Commission on Older Women has called for action to address the increasing pressures women over the age of 50 are encountering in the labour market.

Research conducted over two years identified that older women often struggle with the responsibility of caring for elderly parents and grandchildren.

"Public policy has not kept up with the changing realities of the complex patterns of caring demands placed on older women,'' it concludes.

The report says women aged 50 to 64 face the largest gender-based pay gap, are more likely to be in lower-skilled positions than their male counterparts and are being "disproportionately negatively impacted'' by welfare reforms.

The commission also heard numerous personal stories of age discrimination in the workplace.

"The experiences shared with the commission in focus groups reinforced the findings of existing literature: that older women feel undervalued and often invisible in the workplace,'' the report states.

It calls on UK, Scottish and local governments, as well as employers and trade unions, to take steps to improve the situation, including more transparency over pay, flexible working policies and statutory entitlement to carers leave.

Commission member Wendy Loretto, Professor of organisational behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School, said: "For too long the UK policy debate has ignored the complex challenges facing older women.

"Faced with a rising state-pension age and welfare reforms, most Scottish women now face no choice but to work well into later life to make ends meet.

"Meanwhile, they often have the added responsibility of providing unpaid care to elderly relatives, or for their grandchildren whose own parents are unable not to work.

"There is no quick fix to these challenges but we all have a vested interest in addressing them.

"By starting a dialogue with this report we hope the UK and Scotland's policy-makers can work together with the country's employers and trade unions to develop a new framework to reduce pressure on women working in later life, and unlock their economic potential for the benefit of Scotland as a whole.''

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