The labour market activity of older workers and their ability and disposition to maintain it depend on institutional conditions, age norms, labour demand and shifting overall economic conditions. The paper discusses exclusion and inequality in later working life from a European comparative perspective and emphasises shifts in late work and retirement patterns as well as later-life outcomes in Sweden and Poland. An emphasis is on changing institutional conditions on the national and branch level. Gendered risks for economic exclusion and later life precarity are stressed. Analyses for the two countries are contrasted with Germany and the UK. The analyses are part of the research program ‘Exclusion and Inequality in Late Working Life: Evidence for Policy Innovation Towards Inclusive Extended Work and Sustainable Working Conditions in Sweden and Europe – EIWO’ (2019-24). Analyses use data from SHARE and EU-SILC and address older workers of age 60 and older in Sweden, Poland, German and the UK. They find increasingly heterogeneous preretirement and transition patterns, new gender gaps and increasing risks of economic exclusion in retirement. Situations differ between countries with the prolongation of late working life in Sweden having a mostly positive effect on gender inequalities with low education and specific migrant groups as an exception. Poland is specific case due to unequally low retirement age for woman (60) and for men (65) with consequently large structural gender differences and increases in the process of increasing labour force participation of older workers and increasingly gendered risks for old-age economic exclusion.
The ability and disposition of ageing people to maintain their labour market activity and/or to retire from work structurally depend on pension systems, activation policies, ageism, changing for labor demand and economic shifts. Structural conditions are changing, but social change does not mature homogeneously and neither do the institutional shifts induced by it. Gains in opportunities and resources do not benefit all people, groups and even societies in the same way. Changes increase insecurities and life course inhomogeneity, create unequally distributed challenges and show asynchrony in shifts and outcomes. They generate new precarity in ageing and socially structured risks for exclusion in work and retirement and refer to existing later life inequalities by cohort, gender, region, education, class and ethnicity. From this perspective of ageing and social change, the paper deals with shifts in late work and retirement patterns and later-life outcomes under changing institutional conditions, focusing on gendered risks for economic exclusion and later life precarity in Sweden. Swedish registry data comprising individual work and health histories as well as employer, regional and neighborhood information on the total population 50+ ever living in Sweden 1990-2015 is used in a cohort sequential perspective. Analyses focus on gender inequalities and concentrate on occupational activities, retirement transitions and pension revenues under changing social conditions. Models find increasingly heterogeneous preretirement and transition patterns, new gender gaps and increasing risks of economic exclusion in retirement with disadvantaged groups as forerunners in overall relative declines in later-life economic positions.