Over 50s need better access to ‘good part-time jobs’, report suggests

Study finds some 80,000 workers over 50 are low paid with women faring worse than men

One in five workers aged over 50 are low paid, according to a new report from UCD’s Geary Institute.

The growing number of people seeking to work when they are older in order to pay for accommodation or supplement inadequate pensions is likely to require a rethink in official attitudes to part-time and low paid work according to the authors of the report on the experience of over 50s in the workforce.

Dr Micheál Collins and Dr Catherine Elliott O’Dare said that issues like the housing crisis, inadequate pension provision and the demands of caring for children or older family members were all impacting on the numbers of older people in the workforce and the types of jobs they did.

Many went back to work due to the need to generate an income or supplement an existing one, the report found. Some over 50s used redundancy payments as a cushion that allowed them take less stressful but also less well paid jobs while others, mainly women, sought part-time hours so as to meet family caring commitments.


“I think the model for policy makers has been to create full-time jobs or turn part-time jobs in to full-time jobs rather than to seek to create what might be described as good part-time jobs,” he said.

“That is something that becomes more relevant in a situation where a growing number of people want to work beyond the traditional retirement age.”

Overall, the report, which was funded by the Low Pay Commission and published by UCD’s Geary Institute, found that one in five workers over 50 are low paid with the 80,000 people affected earning an average of between 40 and 60 cent above the minimum wage in 2018.

Women fared less well than men, earning 5.5 per cent less on average than their counterparts and making up 54 per cent of the total number of older people in low paid work.

Some, said Dr Elliot O’Dare, “left better-paying roles in order to cope with commitments. They take roles that allow them to keep all the balls in the air by allowing them to be with their families more of the time while still bringing in a much needed income”.

Others went back out to part-time work, often in the sector in which they had previously been employed for many years as they were familiar with the skills involved, so as to supplement inadequate pensions but many also wanted to continue working and simply wished they were better paid for it, said Dr Collins.

Addressing the issue of accommodation, Anne-Marie McGauran of National Economic and Social Council said the current housing crisis and changing pattern of ownership was likely to result in an increase in older people needing to work.

The report, Low Paid Older Workers: A Quantitative And Qualitative Profile of Low Pay Among Workers Aged Over 50, found that older workers at present are less likely to suffer serious deprivation if they own their own home as compared with those who rent, a situation more common in younger low paid workers.

“With recent estimates suggesting that just two thirds of people in the 35-44 age group will own a home by the time they retire compared to 90 per cent among those over 65 now, I don’t see how this group is going to be able to pay rent in the future and that raises the question of how they are going to have secure accommodation,” she said.

Nat O’Connor of Age Action said that as both the population aged work will be required by Government to address policies in relation to pensions “and other structural factors that tend to push people out of the workforce”.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter