Exploring the challenges and facilitators that impact the experiences of being an older female worker in the European labour market

Findings from a rapid review of literature


Older women make a significant contribution to the labour market yet still experience negative workplace impacts. We undertook a rapid review of literature to assess the current experiences of older female workers in the European labour market with the aim to inform policy innovation and service development that improves the working lives of older women in Europe.

Electronic databases including Business Source Complete, Social Policy and Practice and PubMED were searched. 4797 records were identified, of which 24 full-text reports were included.

Compared to men, older women were found to experience more adverse health impacts as a result of work-related stress. Older women bear a greater share of caring responsibilities which has a negative impact on their health. A lack of support for menopausal symptoms in the workplace often prompted early retirement for older female workers. Income and role disparities between men and women were identified, with women having relatively discontinuous employment histories and lower pension funds due to a higher burden of unpaid, domestic labour throughout their life course. This has a cumulative effect on their income, their role and position at work, and their ability to retire. Older women also reported experiencing workplace discrimination, and lack of autonomy and job control, and less training and developement opportunities. Flexible working was found to be contested terrain, with it being a means to support older women to maintain careers but also resulting in poorer career outcomes.