Monday, July 16, 2012

WIN: Work after retirement?

An interview with Caitrin Lynch

Does working give us value? And what happens to that value after we retire? 
These themes are explored in a recently published book by Caitrin Lynch, Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory.
The book focuses on the VitaNeedle factory in Needham, Massachusetts which employs mostly retired employees. 
The trend is called “eldersourcing,” essentially taking advantage of the lower cost associated with hiring employees already collecting retirement for a couple dozen hours per week. 
Vita Needle provides the employees with flexible hours which allows for time during the day for doctors appointments and other engagements, but is it exploitive? In a recent interview Lynch said "no:"
In this case these people are not being exploited. There are lots of forms of value that work brings to people from financial value to social and psychological value and we need to look at the context of what work means to people. What are people seeking at the jobs and can they live off of the jobs? In this case, given the supplements they have to their incomes in the form of safety nets they can live off of these jobs.
Lynch spent five years studying the factory and the workers and said they don’t feel like they’re being exploited.
The workers often describe it as a win-win situation. They say we know we’re a good deal for this employer and also this is perfect for me. I can come in, spend a little time working, chat with people, and get a little paycheck.
Lynch said one benefit is the company can keep these jobs in the United States and continue supporting the local economy. The employees have the benefit of weathering the recession with extra employment.
The recession has meant that a lot of people, if they were lucky enough to have retirement savings, they lost 30 percent of the value of those savings, so they’re not ready to retire. There’s also people, even if they’re fortunate enough to be able to retire, but given life expectancy what are they going to do with their extra 30 years? A lot of people have said I want work. Work is something that’s important to me, I get a lot out of work in addition to a paycheck and so people have started to think about part-time flexible work as something that can fit into a retirement.

graphic: AARP

copy: Workers Independent News

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