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Journal Article

Pathways of participation in paid and unpaid work in mid to later life in the United Kingdom


Publication date

04 Nov 2021


Policy responses to population ageing have focused on lengthening working lives, overlooking inequalities in older adults’ participation in unpaid activities. This paper examines participation in paid and unpaid activities between the ages of 55 and 70 to answer two questions: how do people navigate pathways of paid work, informal care, volunteering, civic participation and housework in mid to later life?; and how do these pathways relate to gender, socio-economic and health inequalities? Two-staged latent class analysis was used to identify activity pathways using data from the British Household Panel Survey (1996–2008). Multinomial logistic models assessed associations between latent pathways and socio-demographic and health characteristics. Three pathways were observed: full-time work to low activity (49%), part-time and in-home work (34%) and multiple activities (16%). Aside from retirement from full-time work, the pathways of participation in paid and unpaid activities were characterised by continuity; substitution between different forms of paid and unpaid work was not observed. Participation in multiple paid and unpaid activities was more common for respondents in better health and of higher socio-economic status. Since the promotion of paid work and volunteering in later life may mainly benefit individuals in advantaged circumstances, policies should avoid taking a blanket approach to encouraging participation in multiple activities, a key component of active ageing.

Published in

Ageing and Society





Older People, Unpaid Work, Labour Market, Social Capital, Life Course Analysis, and Caregiving


Open Access; Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press; This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.; Online Early


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