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MCollins Older workers 55+

 Low Paid Older Workers: a quantitative and qualitative profile of low pay among workers aged over 55

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Dr Michaél Collins is undertaking a research project entitled Low Paid Older Workers: a quantitative and qualitative profile of low pay among workers aged over 55 on behalf of the Low Pay Commission. 

Background, aims and objectives

The aim of this research is to provide a heretofore absent insight into workers aged over 55 years of age who experience low pay. Using the OECD definition of low-pay (those earning below two thirds of median hourly earnings), Collins found that the risk of low pay was highest for young workers (under 29 years) and subsequently declined with age. However, the risk increased again for older workers, defined in that study as aged 60 years plus (2016: 157). This increase serves as this projects research puzzle: Why does this happen? What are the factors driving these outcomes and how are they related to issues such as: lower completed education levels, unavoidable lifestyle choices associated with care responsibilities and health levels, involuntary requirements to return to work and supplement existing individual/household income sources, voluntary preferences to return to work and supplement existing individual/household income sources, pension entitlements and the accumulation of social insurance credits?

Methodology

Quantitative methods are used to profile the individual and household characteristics of older workers. Using the latest SILC data, the research examines the group's risk and incidence of low pay, compares it to the overall labour force and establishes the gender, sectoral and occupational profile of this cohort. It also examines their household context and the associations with other household incomes and living standards indicators.

Qualitative methods are used to gather data on the experiences and drivers of low pay. Based on a series of focus groups, spread nationwide, the analysis aims to explore the choices that older low paid workers face including whether low paid employment is an unavoidable necessity, a consequence of caring commitments, a lifestyle choice or a combination of all these.

Together the findings will assist policy makers in developing a more detailed understanding of the policy contexts and challenges that arise in determining policy on low pay.

Impact

The results of the research serve three purposes:

  • It will enhance our understanding of the low pay experiences of workers in Ireland.
  • It will provide a detailed insight into the context and choices of an age group of the Irish labour force that is expected to grow substantially in the years to come. 
  • Its findings will contribute to the consideration and formation of public policy on low pay and broader labour market policy on active ageing and participation.

For more information please email micheal.collins@ucd.ie

Collins, M.L. (2016) ‘Earnings and Low Pay in the Republic of Ireland’. Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, Vol. XLV pp. 146-176.

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