About COST

COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology – see www.cost.eu) is a unique platform where European researchers can jointly develop their ideas and initiatives across all scientific disciplines through trans-European networking of nationally funded research. COST is supported by the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 Programme.

About Gender and Extended Working Life

What is Extended Working Life (EWL)?

Since life expectancy has increased in most countries in recent decades, international policies and national governments have introduced policies designed to extend working lives in order to contain expected increases in pension costs. These policies include raising state pension age, discouraging early retirement and reducing the generosity of pension systems. Linked to this is the tendency to promote the individualization and privatization of pensions.

Why analyse Gender and EWL?

EWL policies have been introduced rather quickly, often without fully considering the impacts that such policies may have for the health and economic well-being of diverse groups of older workers, including men and women in precarious and secure occupations, or across different types of welfare state regimes. The gendered impacts of EWL policies are critically important, given the significant evidence that gender norms, roles and responsibilities result in specific challenges for older women. Despite a recent increase in labour force participation, older women workers have relatively poor economic outcomes in terms of earnings, pension-building and employment prospects. Gender discrimination is a common feature of labour markets, leading to the concentration of women and men in different occupations and with women clustered at lower levels with low pay and poor conditions. One consequence of this is that the gender gap in pension income in EU-27 countries was, on average 39%. The predominant involvement of women in unpaid care work means they have gaps from employment and pension-building and they have a higher risk of poverty in older age than men. It is crucial to analyse EWL policies from a gender perspective.

Why use a life course approach to EWL

The order and timings of life transitions, such as moving from education to work to retirement, are vital to understanding the impact of extending working life. A central tenet of a life course research approach is that experience of earlier events forms the context of later events and decisions. States, through welfare policies, shape the policy context within which life course decisions are made and experienced. The concept of ‘linked-lives’ reminds us that individuals live in households and communities which condition their willingness and ability to extend their working lives. Consequently, it is important to examine policies which shape people’s lives at earlier stages, to clearly understand the context for decisions to continue or cease working in later life. A life course approach enables us to see how gender discrimination early in life may intersect with age discrimination later in life and exacerbate earnings and pension disadvantages for women.

Health and EWL

Although governments are introducing EWL policies, there is evidence that for workers in certain occupations such as those involving heavy physical and/or emotional labour, it may be extremely physically challenging to continue to work. EWL policies may need to be modified to ensure that such workers are not disadvantaged.

What does this mean for policy?

Our goal is to ensure that policy-makers, implementers and stakeholders at international, national , local and organisational level become aware of the need to consider the gender impacts of EWL policy and where necessary to modify them and/or introduce innovative policies and good practice.

Our Objectives

The main goal of this Action is to advance scientific knowledge about the gendered impacts of extended working life on the health and economic well-being of older workers in Europe and to support informed gender-sensitive future policy, explicitly considering the differential needs of women and men. Specific aims are (1) to develop new understandings and best practice for research into extended working life and gender and to create a platform which harmonises a number of methodologies, disciplines and approaches; (2) to enhance and add value to current research in these fields and build capacity for future collaborative research; (3) to provide training, support and mentoring for emerging researchers in the field of gender and extended working life; (4) to act as an innovative platform for knowledge exchange and dissemination of good practice among researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders including trade unions and employers.


Dr. Áine Ní Léime,
Irish Centre for Social Gerontology
National University of Ireland, Galway

Tel: +353 91 495460
email: aine.nileime@nuigalway.ie


Professor Sarah Vickerstaff,
University of kent
CT27NF Canterbury
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1227827730
email: s.a.vickerstaff@kent.ac.uk