Friday, 6 July 2012

Lifecourse determinants and incomes in retirement: Belgium and the United Kingdom compared

an article by Caroline Dewilde (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam) published in Ageing & Society Volume 32 Part 4 (May 2012)


This paper considers how social inequality in old age might be structured by previous lifecourse experiences. Specifically, it analyses the impact of ‘life-time’ family and labour market experiences on household incomes of older people in Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Prospective panel data and retrospective life-history information from the Panel Study of Belgian Households (1992-2002) and the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2005) were combined. The analysis sample comprised 481 Belgium men, 602 Belgium women, 577 British men, and 803 British women aged 60 years and over.

The results show that old-age income is indeed influenced by previous lifecourse experiences, and that differences between Belgium and the UK can be explained in terms of welfare régime arrangements. Family experiences have a larger impact on old-age incomes in ‘male-breadwinner’ Belgium, while in Britain labour market events are more important.

As social transfers in Britain are more aimed at poverty prevention and less at income replacement, a ‘scarring effect’ of unemployment persists even into old age. Also, the more of one’s career is spent in blue-collar work, self-employment or farming, the lower the income in old age.

This effect was found to be significantly stronger in Belgium than in the UK, despite the high level of ‘de-commodification’ achieved by the Belgian welfare state.

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