December 23, 2016

102-year-old scientist wins right to continue working at Australian university

Dr David Goodall, dubbed Australia’s oldest working scientist, was asked to work from home as his institution—Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Perth—reportedly felt his age presented a health and safety risk.

Goodall, who has studied ecology for over 70 years and worked at the university for 20, contested the ruling as he “wanted to continue life in society,” preferring to be on campus “because there are other people around and people who potentially are friends.

The ecologist has now been provided with an alternative, “better” workspace, closer to his home, having previously needed to travel for 90 minutes to reach his workstation at the university. 

The university’s vice-chancellor, Steve Chapman, was reported as saying “I think it’s a better solution for him and a better solution for the university.” Whilst, Goodall said that he was grateful the university had managed to accommodate him.

Goodall’s story has gained public attention around the world, with debates focusing on the value of those who want to work well into their old age.

Research has revealed that late-life workers have higher levels of well-being than retirees. “[T]here are documented positive effects related to late-life work and to voluntary part-time work,” reveals Carol Graham, in her IZA World of Labor article. She believes that “work arrangements and retirement options based on more individual choice are a potential solution to some of the challenges of unemployment, aging populations, and unsustainable pensions systems around the world.” The transaction costs of such arrangements, and their feasibility in more precarious labor markets, are still concerns, but “policies that support more flexible labor market arrangements, including incentives for job-sharing and remaining in the labor force after retirement age, can help overcome these problems.”

Related articles:
Late-life work and well-being, by Carol Graham
Redesigning pension systems, Marek Góra
The effect of early retirement schemes on youth employment, by René Böheim
Find more IZA World of Labor articles on the aging workforce and pensions reform