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Mature aged women have greatly increased their participation in paid employment over the past three decades. This report looks at the causes and impact of this continuing trend.

The contribution to total hours worked by people of working age of women aged 45 to 64 years has increased from just over 6 per cent in 1979 to almost 15 per cent in 2009. Moreover, their contribution increased relative to other age groups, with their share of total hours worked by women of working age rising from 21 per cent to 38 per cent.

These trends reflect greater societal acceptance of women in the workforce, increased education levels of women and greater diversity of household living arrangements. Increasing involvement of mature aged women in the workforce is also related to greater diversity in working arrangements, including growth in part time employment and increased workplace flexibility.

In summary, the survey evidence of mature aged women’s reasons for retiring and the international evidence of participation rates and eligibility ages for pensions suggest that changing age pension eligibility requirements will be factors for consideration by some mature aged women when deciding to retire. But the extent to which such changes will increase the overall participation rate of mature aged women is uncertain. Many other factors also affect the decision of mature aged women to retire. They include sufficient workplace flexibility to allow working hours to be tailored to individual preferences, whether their partner is working, whether they have caring responsibilities and their own health status.

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