When is it time to name it today? Even for Serena Williams, options can be limited to Yvonne Roberts

yUne Spencer, 103 years old—an extraordinary example of being as young as they think, columnist Katherine Whitehorn once said—decides that after 70 years in the role of indefatigable mother Peggy Woolley, It’s time to retire From BBC Radio 4 shooters. “In 1950, I helped plant an oak… called shootersI explained. “Over the years it has blossomed and has become a great great tree with many branches. But now that old branch, known as Peggy, is weak and unsafe, so I decided it was time to ‘get rid of it’, so I duly cut it down.”

Also last week came the announcement of the departure of the tennis court queen of more than 20 years. Serena Williams. in Vogue magazine In an interview, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, now 40, declared: “I’m developing away from tennis…I’m ready for what’s coming.” The reason for retiring from sports in her case will not be surprising to many women: namely, you can not have everything. At least, not according to the terms currently offered.

Williams explained in the magazine’s September issue that she never wanted to choose between tennis and family but that she hoped to have a second child. “I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a man… I would be there playing and winning while my wife did the physical labor to expand our family.” Five-year-old Olympia’s mother He said: “I definitely don’t want to get pregnant again as an athlete.”

Once upon a time, not so long ago, an employee of him or her served 30 or 40 years in the same job and retired with a transfer hour, only a few years later. Balance life with work And raising a family was such a part of the invisible world that most employers had little interest and almost no investment.

For decades, women have lobbied for more flexibility in the workplace, three days a week without losing a career and almost nothing has changed. Family obligations and the astronomical costs of childcare meant, for many, that early “retirement” was not so much an option as an obligation. Then came Covid-19.

Working from home has become the norm, ‘lost’ hours of commuting have been found again, thousands of employees have savored a form of near-liberation from the rat race with the result that while the work ethic is alive, it appears to be far from true. . Last week, John Lewis boss Sharon White made an appeal to the 1 million people, aged 50 to 70, who quit paid work during the pandemic in order to Back to the job market. She said many of those leaving their jobs could cause “profound and long-term systemic effects,” leading to lower productivity and growth rates. Of course, economic hardship may force some back – but in the social contract between employers and bosses there is so much wrong, so why don’t many choose to call it a day in the life of work that often brings so few rewards today?

Recent PCS Consortium Survey of 12,000 junior civil servants It found that 40% had to take out a loan or credit to pay for basic shopping, 9% were claiming benefits to increase their income, and 14% took second and third jobs to make ends meet. In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that a 15-hour paid work week would be possible in the twenty-first century through improved productivity and technology. Instead, for many, the work week has become longer, prospects are unsafe, frequent career/job change is an expectation, and wages are flat for years with rising inflation and energy bills. Against this background, some have been forced into early retirement due to redundancy, illness or family obligations, while for others it is not an option so much as a straightforward trade-off: living a more frugal life but for a few years longer.

June Spencer, filmed in 2019
June Spencer, filmed in 2019, is retiring from The Archers, at the age of 103. Photograph: Martin Goodwin/The Guardian

The impact of Covid on hiring practices means that despite calls by some politicians and economists to postpone the official retirement age to 67 and above, for many, withdrawing is becoming an increasingly personal decision. For the June Spencers of this world, able to control their hours, in love with what they do, retirement may never be an option. Others may feel unable to compromise on the identity and prestige they think their job bestows – but what about those who work in “dirty” or painful work, a shift in a slaughterhouse, construction site, or stretched-out A&E hospital? And if a 75-year-old sits tightly at his workbench, does that prevent a twenty-year-old from finding work?

in Time is on our sideWhy do we all need a shorter work week, published in 2013, a group of voices made social justice arguments for everyone who works fewer hours (30 hours over four days) with decent pay, creating a new consensus about what constitutes a “good life.” Post-Covid, unfortunately, this still seems like a distant dream.

The agenda of persuading men and women to work longer if that is what the economy and whites require is not complicated. Affordable, subsidized childcare, reasonable working hours, fair pay, flexibility, on-the-job skills training and respect are clear requirements. The Social Market Foundation, a research organization, recently published a Report on the working poor of London. All participants said that business should be “more understanding, caring and proactive”. Or, to put it more simply, treat the employee like a human with a world outside the workplace and he or she may be willing to continue the path a little longer.

Yvonne Roberts is a freelance journalist, writer and broadcaster

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