Shifts on the Social Contract, Aging, Life Course and Retirement

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The post-world war era had both positive and negative effects on retirement, the age-differentiated life course and productive aging. Historically the occupational life cycle of workers in America was characterized by unstable conditions and brutal working conditions. However, the coming in of the social contract brought in a stable occupational life cycle and contributed positively to the productive aging model. This is because the social contract gave workers stable jobs, retirement benefits and the traditional age-differentiated life course was clearly distinct (Rubin, 1996). However, failed competition led to an economic recession which eventually affected the labor –accord and the social contract. This is because corporations responded by downsizing, restructuring and adopting new technologies which led to a move towards globalization (Rubin, 1996). This led to flexible work practices which negatively affected the occupational life cycle. These changes on their own impacted retirement, age differentiated life cycle and productive aging. Changes in the social contract in America negatively impacted the occupational life cycle, retirement and productive aging.

Typical Occupational Life-Cycle World War II

The occupational life cycle captures the interrelatedness of individual lives over time with the social structure of employment and opportunity advancement, prestige and rewards. In an occupational lifecycle model, a worker upon completion of high school or any training enters into an entry-level job with cooperation or an entity (Kunkel & Morgan, 2007). A typical employee will advance through the ranks in the corporation, perhaps through promotion or seeking advanced training (Rubin, 1996). Through the period the workers’ earnings advance because of the skills earned, experience, seniority or responsibility which leads the worker to reach a plateau or middle age (Rubin, 1996). At this stage, an advancement may slow down or cease in anticipation of retirement which comes along with benefits such as health benefits or pension benefits.

Historically, the occupational life cycle of people in employment in America was characterized by unstable employment and employees who were in their occupational life cycle was treated brutally. There was a lack of opportunity advancement and the worker lacked prestige and rewards because employment was more of slavery than the enjoyment of work (Rubin, 1996). According to Rubin (1996), this was attributed by the fact that America was mainly dominated by industrial capitalism. Taking an example of employees who were working in the mining industry, a typical employee in the occupational life cycle lacked the freedom to organize, strike and they also lacked an opportunity to advance their grievances (Rubin, 1996). Oftentimes, when the workers tried to advance their interest they were brutally treated due to the sheer strength of the employer. However, the coming in of the labour accord which formed a social contract between labour, the employer and the government changed these conditions that these employees faced in their occupational life cycle.

The accord which mainly formed the conditions of the social contact had the purpose of changing the conditions of workers working in these industries. Characterized by labour unions, the accord rearranged the major actors in the economy which included big capital and big labour (Rubin, 1996). The formation of labour unions aimed at giving workers job security, an opportunity for advancement in the industry and prestige. The social contract began to protect a worker’s pay, working conditions and improved the quality of working lives. This improved the quality of the occupational life cycle. Elements of the social contract that brought about these changes include the collective bargaining process (Rubin, 1996). Collective bargaining brought industrial peace, most workers got stable jobs, an increase in earnings and the process created a stable social structure of employment. Secondly, productivity bargaining and regulation of conflict enabled workers who were both on the core of the social contract and on the periphery to live a decent life. An employee who was in this occupational lifecycle after world war would manage to get an entry-level job, get a stable salary and provide for their families.

According to Rubin (1996), several employees were able to buy houses for their families, buy cars, buy furniture and provide their families, received retirement benefits on a single paycheck. The hallmark of the social contract was the creation of a stable occupational life cycle which was made possible by the creation of labour capital (Bellou, 2013). The relationship that was premised on the exchange of job security, monetary gain stable employment for industrial peace and ongoing productivity (Rubin, 1996). However, the coming in of competition, and the emerging economy which was characterized by advancement in technology changed these stable conditions in the occupational life cycle. Reasons for a Change in the Stable

Occupational Life-Cycle

Immediately after the post-world war 2 era, this stable career model changed due to economic changes and demographic changes. The competitive environment for corporations and institutions led to the breakdown of the labour accord (Rubin, 1996). Because of failed international competition, the rise of paper entrepreneurism, international competition and rising cost, corporations employed strategies that aimed at reducing cost and increase profits One of the strategies was to engage in industrial restructuring, union-busting, globalization and technological innovation (Rubin, 1996).

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In addition, failure by companies to compete in the new emerging world led to slow economic growth which led the economy into a recession. A recession comes along with loss of jobs, loss of market and high cost if companies do not adjust their corporate strategies to suit the emerging economy (Rubin, 1996). This affected the stable occupational lifecycle as the new flexible capitalism and industry was now requiring flexible working conditions (Rubin, 1996). People who had technological qualifications, people who had knowledge in the service industry and the new young generation which had knowledge of computers started replacing the older generation that was not accustomed to globalization and technology. Furthermore, as international competition intensified, companies which failed to compete changed their business models to adjust to the demands of the emerging economy. There was a shift in employment as companies invested in the service industry, upgraded for new technology and sought for new markets and cheaper workers (Rubin, 1996). Corporations also engaged in industrial restructuring and de-industrialization. Industrial restructuring and de-industrialization can be defined as a shift from manufacturing production and employment to expanding services production and employment (Rubin, 1996). Workers were affected negatively by this shift as it was difficult for a typical worker to get an entry-level job without advanced qualifications. Skills became obsolete as the emerging corporate world required new qualifications and skills that were more inclined to the knowledge of technology (Rubin, 1996).

Furthermore, the recent economic recession led to the introduction of flexible work practices, a situation whereby the employer outsources the skills that he needs. Such changes caused a shift in the occupational life cycle, and again employees found themselves lacking job security, faced with unstable earnings and lacked retirement benefits. The occupational life cycle again was now lacking opportunity advancement as employers in the emerging economy preferred to use freelance workers (Rubin, 1996). They also took advantage of young employees who had the recent knowledge of technology which was necessary to survive in the world characterized by intense competition. Challenge the traditional “age-differentiated” life course These social conditions of flexible work practices and the inability of living on a single paycheck led to challenges in the traditional age- differentiated life course and created a structural lag between societal aging and images of elders.

A life-course approach refers to the multidisciplinary paradigm for the study of people’s lives, their structural context and social change (Garrison, n.d). With regards to the traditional age differentiated life course, certain roles and behaviours are considered to be appropriate based on a certain age which is arranged in chronological order (Garrison, n.d). For example, the traditional age differentiated lifecycle would stipulate that it is appropriate for a person to work form the ages of 20-55 and retire thereafter (Garrison, n.d). However, changes in the patterns of aging and the social structures are interdependent. By changing the employment practices that were long-standing such as employment practices brought about by the labour accord corporates in the United States led a shift in the normal work lives of employees. This brought challenges to workers who were working during the period of social contract regulated the employment relationship as they were able to perform appropriate roles according to the traditional age differentiated life course (Garrison, n.d). Therefore, compared to the traditional worker, fewer workers were able to look for stable employment on one company and they had to find multiple careers so as to be able to sustain themselves (Rubin, 1996).

This took away the retirement benefits that employees were supposed to have bad brought about challenges in age differentiated lifecycle as workers continued to work even on the ages which they were supposed to retire or perform certain specified traditional roles. Although the aging process and the social structures which are created affect each other, the process of change is highly distinct and it follows its own dynamics. For example, although the aging process varies across individuals, it has a defined rhythm that includes birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age (Burkhauser & Quinn, 2014). However social structures do not have the same defined system as that of aging. This is because the economy faces ups and downs as evidenced by the recession that the US went through which eliminated social contracts. Consequently, these social events lead to a poor fit between the lives of people and structures, known as an imbalance between what people of given ages has to offer and what they need and expect in their lives (Burkhauser & Quinn, 2014). This creates structural lag as social structures fail to meet to the demands of the people (Burkhauser & Quinn, 2014). For example, the earlier roles and images of elder people during the period of the social contract was that they will retire and enjoy their benefits. However, the changes that happened in the economy led to a mismatch between the elder's expectations and what societal structures were providing them hence resulting in a structural lag.

Changes in Future Retirement

The changes in the occupational lifecycle do not only have effects on the match between social structures and age differentiation but will also have an effect on the future of retirement and the contribution that retirement has to productive aging. According to Kunkel & Morgan (2007), under normal circumstances in a stable occupational life cycle, when people retire they will have retirement benefits which they can make use in productive activities such as volunteering and charity. This is because as people get older they get exposed to the risk of isolation, dependency, depressed physical, economic and mental well-being (CDC, 2015). Therefore, engaging in activities such as volunteering, faith networking and other charitable organizations will relieve them from the feeling of loneliness. Theoretical contributions developed in productive aging states that productivity cannot only be defined as the economic value of individuals’ actions but it is also measured in terms of social and civic contributions that the elderly make when they reach retirement age. This was supported by Shern (2017) who explained that older people have the capacity to help build the community’s social and economic capital through productive means.

The resource strategic mobilization model states that the amount of personal resources and networks influence the way older persons who are at retirement stage participate in three major activities such as employment, volunteering, charity a and caregiving (Shern, 2017). In general, those who have better resources have a higher probability of participating in all activities. However, due to the emerging economy which is characterized by flexible work practices and changes in the occupational life cycle, the elderly are left with little or no benefits that are channeled towards retirement. As a result, they do not have funds to engage in activities such as volunteering, caregiving or charity and this affects their ability to contribute positively to society hence affecting the productive aging model. In conclusion, changes in the social contract in America negatively impacted the occupational life cycle, retirement and productive aging. The coming in of the social contract brought in a stable occupational life cycle and contributed positively to the productive aging model. This is because the social contract gave workers stable jobs, retirement benefits and the traditional age-differentiated life course was clearly distinct. However, failed competition led to an economic recession which eventually affected the labour –accord and the social contract. This affected the occupational life cycle, age-differentiated life course.

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