Women, Work and Pensions, by Jay Ginn, Debra Street and Sara Arber (eds.)

(Open University Press, 2002, 270 pages). Paper Back £24.00. Order this book

The issue of income maintenance in later life is one of considerable interest to the individual and the wider society. When the ‘post work’ phase of life can last as long, if not longer, than the period of participation in the labour market, issues of maintaining incomes for this period become paramount. Indeed the whole issue of pension provision is assuming increasing prominence in the policy area and is one where the interface between, and the controversy concerning, the respective roles of public and private provision is seen clearly. These debates are of particular relevance to women who, because of the nature of their employment patterns and their involvement in a variety of caring activities, are especially vulnerable to the experience of poverty and low income in old age.
This edited collection of 13 chapters contributed by leading scholars examines the position of women and their pension arrangements in six ‘liberal’ welfare states. Through these ‘case studies’ and several overview chapters the authors demonstrate a consistent pattern of the ‘feminisation’ of poverty in later life. However, the contributors also look behind this broad generalisation to demonstrate the differential impact of factors such as class and ethnicity upon women’s income levels in later life. It is clearly inadequate to deal with ‘older’ women as a single, homogeneous group. Rather we must develop a more sophisticated analysis to incorporate issues such as class, age and ethnicity. Several authors also consider the influence of ‘cohorts’ by considering the likely pension situation for future generations of elders. Whilst future cohorts may be less handicapped by ‘caring’ responsibilities, changes in pension legislation is likely to have a differential impact upon those who are employed part time or have interrupted working careers. Overall this is an excellent book that is extremely timely, highly policy relevant and well written and organised. It should be of interest to many colleagues; especially those concerned with issues of social policy, feminist studies and gerontology.
Christina Victor