Age and work: a study of 489 men in heavy industry
Richardson, I. M.
The object of the research reported in this thesis was to determine the relationship between Age and Heavy Work. The Employment of Older People is already a national problem of great importance; in the foreseeable future it will become of critical importance. The economy of Great Britain rests mainly on the prosperity of its heavy industries which will in the years to come rely more and more upon the labour of an ageing population.The adaptation of industrial production to suit an ageing labour force depends largely on knowledge of what constitutes suitable work for older people. As yet that knowledge is embryonic but over a long period there has existed the belief that heavy work is contra- indicated for men in the upper age -groups; that belief may be the cause or the effect of a familiar event in heavy industry - moves to less heavy work by older men. As a former industrial medical officer, the author was struck by the common association between that event and health; the finding that work modification and its attendant circumstances had not been adequately investigated investigated led to this study.The actual observations are derived from personal interviews with 489 men aged 50 years and over who were employed in a coalmine and two iron foundries. The outstanding findings are that with advancing age the proportion of men on heavy work falls, that moves off heavy work increase sharply in frequency after the fourth decade of age, and that injury and illness are associated with almost two thirds of these moves. The role of health factors in work modification is discussed in detail and the hypothesis is advanced that moves off heavy work are often the result of a combination of circumstances in which disability is of minor importance.The relation between retirement and modification is discussed and attention drawn to the fact that older people frequently encounter difficulty at work some years before normal retirement age is reached. The conclusion is reached that some modification of effort is required for older people but that this should not involve sacrifice of productive skills.