Using a life course perspective to understand early labor market exits for people in their late 50s living in the UK

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Jon Swain
JD Carpentieri
Samantha Parsons
Alissa Goodman


This paper explores the reasons why people exit the UK labor market early and some of the barriers working against them returning. The specific focus is a qualitative exploration of three out of work individuals, approaching the age of 60, each of whom had experienced poverty and periods of worklessness during their lifetime. The fieldwork took place in 2016 and was part of a wider mixed methods study about retirement, which used data from the 1958 birth cohort study. Researchers used narrative interviews to uncover the lived experiences and realities of these three people’s lives, and applied a life course perspective to understand how the accumulation of advantages and disadvantages during their lives shapes their attitudes and expectations. The data also show the effects of money, health, and previous employment on their decision making, and how structures such as social class, gender, and poverty are represented in and through the stories they tell.


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