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Globalization and ageing workers: constructing a global life course

J. Brandon McKelvey (Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 27 February 2009



Globalization has speeded the flow of development across borders, encouraging the movement of both labour and capital. Although it has been well‐documented that labour is less flexible than capital and that unskilled labour is disadvantaged by these trends, the impact of globalization on older workers has been largely ignored. The critical gerontology perspective can contribute through its focus on globalization's effects on labour market opportunities and social welfare benefits. This paper aims to address these issues.


This is a theoretical paper on ageing.


This paper examines four issues faced by older workers in an international context in order to more fully understand the differential impact of globalization by age. First, the paradigm of globalization assumes a youthful labour force willing and able to relocate search of employment opportunities, criteria inapplicable to many older workers. Second, human capital inequalities produce differing opportunities for older workers to respond to economic changes. Third, existing social welfare provisions are relatively durable and likely to affect older people in complex ways. Fourth, varied levels of international development and life course possibilities produce differences between countries and regions.


This paper is original in highlighting how a lifetime of constraints placed upon older workers by their moral and political economies make their integration into the idealized global market difficult and pose larger questions about understanding the life course in a global context.



Brandon McKelvey, J. (2009), "Globalization and ageing workers: constructing a global life course", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 29 No. 1/2, pp. 49-59.



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