Employability and flexible retirement: variations in academia in an age of austerity

Mike Danson*, Karen Gilmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


With both declining and ageing populations, countries are addressing the threats to their competitiveness by attracting more highly educated workers and by investing in human capital, especially through policies to increase the rates of participation by young people in tertiary education. As the population is still ageing, there are concerns over the affordability of state support for the elderly, their roles in society and the economy. Active and flexible lifestyles extend healthy life expectancy, so extending the length of the working life is increasingly seen as a way to ease the transition to an economy where an ageing population is affordable.

Senior academic staff, exemplars of such post-industrial flexibility, have long been accommodated beyond the statutory retirement age. Their benign conditions of work; high private and social returns to experience and knowledge; and their high levels of those skills, labour power and other capacities which do not degenerate with age, combine to prolong the length of their effective working lives. Against this, as in other sectors, redundancies, voluntary severance and other schemes to reduce staffing have encouraged early retirement. Increased demand for higher education has driven changes in the lecturing labour mix, with increasing use of a peripheral workforce of both early career and retiring staff. This has seen semi-retirement within higher education evolving to stretch the period over which withdrawal takes place.

In this context, the exploratory work reported here considers the initial responses by employers and trades unions in Scottish Higher Education to the abolition of the default retirement age and the introduction of ‘The Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1323-1332
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Early online date13 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2012


  • employability
  • academics
  • flexible retirement
  • age discrimination
  • university
  • Scotland


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