Drivers and patterns of early retirement in the neoliberal university

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Economic and Labour Relations Review




School of Arts and Humanities




Taylor, P., Gringart, E., Webb, E. O., Carnemolla, P., Drake, D., Oppert, M., & Harvey, R. (2022). Drivers and patterns of early retirement in the neoliberal university. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 33(4), 715-736.


This article increases understanding of university labour processes. The antecedents and characteristics of early retirement schemes implemented by Australian universities between 2010 and 2020 were considered. Twenty-eight schemes were identified across 20 universities. Content analysis of descriptions of the schemes contained in official documents was undertaken. This revealed somewhat common justifications for the schemes, linked to concerns about organisational sustainability/resilience in the face of external threats and the implementation of modernising efforts. Such justifications appeared to be underpinned by similar ageist biases on the part of management. Despite this broad commonality, however, the schemes manifested a multifurcation of possible work-retirement pathways across institutions. Such reorganisation of labour processes, based on ageist representations that potentially place established workers in conflict with others, represents an incongruence between the market-oriented objectives of universities and areas of public policy responding to workforce ageing. It is argued that drawing momentum from emerging conceptions of sustainability and current diversity initiatives such as Athena Swan and Age Friendly Universities it may be possible to sever the link university leadership perceive between the divestment of older workers and the fulfilment of modernising agendas. JEL Codes: J26, J71, J78



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