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Mid-career gap years could become the norm

There are approximately 876,000 hours in a century, which is about how long kids born in 2017 can expect to live. So, what to do with all that extra time?

Organisational theorist and author of The 100-Year Life and The Shift: The future of work is already here, Lynda Gratton said children born in 2017 can expect to live to 100, so the meaning of life and work will change.

Speaking in a Credit Suisse insight, Ms Gratton said that when it comes to increased life expectancies: “We're talking not just about finances; indeed, it's about nothing less than reinventing our lives. I wrote a book on this topic, which – for good reason – has been very successful in Japan, the country with the world's oldest population. When you live a long time, you inevitably see and do things differently.”

Responding to questioning about how a 100-year life span will change lives, Ms Gratton said the “most obvious answer” is that there will be more time. Continuing, she said that unless retirees have an “enormous amount of money” saved, or are happy to live a very modest life, future careers will last well past 80.

However: “No one is going to work full-time, without interruption, from 20 right through to 80! Perhaps you will return to school for additional training in the middle of your career or you'll take some time off and then return to work.

“It would be terrible to work for 60 years without a break! I think we should integrate "retirement" into our lives – why should gap years be reserved for the young? Taking a break should be an option at other stages of life, as well.”

A crucial element in this shift will be society’s capacities to overcome negative stereotypes associated with older workers.

Further, she said companies and workers need to become “age-agnostic” about all ages, arguing that a 55-year-old football fan will have more in common with a 20-year-old fan than a 60-year-old opera enthisiast.

“We should eliminate age as a factor, and governments should put policies in place to help us do so. That would help,” Ms Gratton said.

Additionally: “Change requires role models. It is still uncommon for women to reveal their age. When I give a talk, I always make a point of mentioning how old I am. I want to show people what 62 is like today. I'm not sitting in a wheelchair; I'm very active – for example, I came directly from a plane to do this interview. More and more people like me will be making public appearances, and I hope that will help to reduce prejudice.”

Beyond fighting age-prejudice, societies also need to reckon with the potential “disaster” that is people spending more than they earn. Ms Gratton said to have a comfortable retirement, given a 100-year life expectancy, people will need to “save. A lot.”

“And you must limit your consumption. If you're living a multi-stage life [which consists of more periods than just education, work and retirement], you should always set some money aside during the stages when you're earning. There's no other option. Here, too, we need a profound cultural change.”

Mid-career gap years could become the norm
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