No time to retire

British research shows that there is a considerable group of men over 60 in the UK, who have to put in long working hours to make ends meet. They as a rule work more than 48 hours per week. They are found in a few sectors, most probably engaged in low skilled jobs. They have little formal education. The selected criterion which led researchers to this group is the fact that they signed an agreement with their employer to opt out from the European Working Time Directive EWTD.

Especially old men are forced to supplement their income
From the respondents to the Paywizard enquiry 4.5 per cent signed the individual opt-out from the EWTD. These individuals, usually men, are mainly working in hotels and restaurants, storage, communication and at round the clock industrial production lines as machine operators and assemblers. They are predominantly working in the private sector, especially where collective agreements are lacking. 
Remarkable, say the researchers from IDS in London, is the fact that more people opt out when they are older, i.e. from the age of 61 upwards. They put in more hours, instead of gradually working less in anticipation of retirement.
Moreover, these are people with lower education who do manual, blue collar work.
Also this group is more likely to work in the evening and as a result finds it more difficult to strike a balance between working, family life and leisure time.
This group at the low end of the British labour market may be larger still than the 4.5 per cent of all respondents indicate. Because of all individuals from the sample who work over 48 hours per week, just 17.6 per cent say they signed the opt-out agreement.
The researchers suggest that these elderly men have no other choice, as they are likely to earn meagre wages anyhow. They simply put in more hours to supplement their income.

In general low wages make for longer hours
This analysis is in keeping with the outcome of comparative study involving not just the UK, but also Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain focussing on working hour preferences. It concludes that low wages make preference for long working hours likely in all countries. Next to that it says that satisfaction with working hours is lower when the job is perceived as a burden and the work as monotonous. These findings add a dramatic dimension to the situations these elderly British workers find themselves in. It also leads to the assumption that other EU-countries may harbour similar low paid groups. This has already been substantiated for the Netherlands in a study from 2004, in which it was found that those who are paid the least, must be the most flexible in adapting to the working hours preferences of their employers.
Melis, S., Storry, R. & Chubb, C. (2007). United Kingdom Country Report: Working hours and the opt-out clause.
Tijdens, K.G. (2007). Employee's working hours preferences in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom: The Effects of Contractual Working Time, Family Phase and Household Characteristics, and Job Characteristics.

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