What do older women need to stay in the workforce?

A new study shows that more appreciation, job security and regular reviews of jobs could help more older women stay in the workforce.

Middle aged woman pushes an older woman along in a wheelchair as a carer


Employers with female-dominated workforces such as healthcare and education could take measures to maximise retention of older workers through providing secure, satisfying jobs where women feel appreciated, as well as regular appraisal of job demands, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Occupational Medicine, is based on 4,436 women aged 50 to 64 who were tracked annually from 2013 to just before the pandemic. 64% were working. It builds on previous research showing increasing numbers of women aged 50+ are in the labour force, with women being more likely than men to work part time and in insecure, less well-remunerated jobs. Research also shows that it is unclear whether working to older ages will have health benefits for older women, or increase health risks.

The new study found two-thirds of women aged 50+ years in its survey sample worked at some point and that the nature of jobs in which older women are working appear to be different by five-year cohort, with younger women doing more professional, managerial and technical jobs, and less administrative and retail jobs.

It finds predictors of job exit among older women are age, perceived difficulty coping with mental demands of work and perceived financial security. Leg pain [such as hip pain] and poor self-rated health are also important health risk factors for job exit. Moreover, working conditions (security, work demands, appreciation and satisfaction) are also important to retain older women working.

The researchers say that, in addition to making women feel more valued and providing better, more secure jobs, policymakers need to recognise and support women carers better. When it comes to lower limb pain, it says healthcare providers have not historically prioritised care pathways for it, although there are evidence-based interventions that can improve outcomes.

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