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Business School Professor gives evidence to Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness

Jacqueline O'Reilly (Professor of Comparative Human Resource Management at the University of Sussex Business School) was invited to give oral evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision on 9 October 2018. 

She participated in a session which examined how government and employers can support longer working lives, how flexible working can contribute to older people working longer and how an increase in the number of older workers would affect young people in the workplace.

Drawing on findings from her research – including the EU-funded project STYLE (Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe), of which she is the co-ordinator – Prof O’Reilly proposed a series of policy ideas for addressing issues faced in an ever-changing labour market landscape. These included:

  • Introducing a personal learning / flexible working account, spanning a lifetime, which would enable individuals to enter or withdraw from the labour market (e.g. for caring or educational needs) when needed.
  • Redefining the concept of ‘intergenerational fairness’ as something that captures the whole of the life cycle, rather than an idea that pits the old against the young, with the assumption that somebody is doing better than somebody else.
  • Broadening the demographic scope of ‘ageing workforce’ policies to consider those in their 40s and 50s, at which point a ‘midlife MOT’ could better address questions such as “Where do you need to go and what do you need to help you?”
  • Encouraging firms to allow retention of older workers and their phasing out over longer time periods, e.g. with reduced hours.
  • Recognising that different organisations require different skills and levels of these skills, and that analysis has shown older people work in different sectors and different types of occupations to younger people.
  • Finding ways to bring older people into the new digital economy and make them part of it, whether through further education or improved access to digital services and processes (e.g. online application forms).
  • Looking to the past for successful initiatives to emulate, e.g. the introduction of access courses for those who had long since left school with no qualifications, and updating such a scheme to incorporate skills like basic digital literacy. Incorporating benefits e.g. childcare provision would facilitate better uptake and successful participation in these programmes.

The research underpinning these recommendations has been published in a number of recent publications; in addition to the final output of the STYLE project – the STYLE Handbook – Prof O’Reilly is co-editor of the book Work in a Digital Age, which examines important policy challenges arising from the transformation of work, resulting from the introduction of digital technology. She was also recently a panellist at a local business community debate on the future of work.

This evidence session forms part of a broader inquiry being held by the Committee, which is looking at issues of intergenerational fairness and provision across four key policy areas: jobs and the workplace; housing; the role of communities; and taxation.

Watch Prof O’Reilly’s evidence session on (starts approx 12h36m20s) or read the uncorrected transcript.

By: Katherine Davies
Last updated: Friday, 9 November 2018