It's all part of a rigged economic system, something I have written about for years on this blog and elsewhere. It has been fodder of feminist writing since the 1960s, but it bears repeating:
Most women do NOT take time off from the labor force in any significant way these days. Who can afford "caregiving" unless you are well-to-do? Any policy proposal talking about giving "credit" to people who do not need it is missing the point, to say nothing of the fact we women who have worked all our lives are being required to subsidize people who can afford to drop out of the labor force to "care" for relatives. The real reason women, especially never-married women, fare so poorly in middle and old age has to do with the concept of the "family wage." It is the notion that men are breadwinners and women are dependents. Men are seen as needing the higher pay because they have families to support, while women are seen as not needing the money as much as men because they have a man to support them. Women's pay is denigrated regardless of occupation, with women-dominated occupations poorly paid as compared to male-dominated jobs of the same education and skills. When women begin to dominate a male field, the pay and prestige go down immediately. That is because women are seen as "secondary" wage earners, and employers feel they in good conscience can underpay women because the difference is supposedly made up by a husband's salary (never mind the reality of millions of women there is no man in the picture). Furthermore, underpaying women helps "encourage" them to jettison independent living in favor of marriage. It reeks of prostitution rather than real choice. Our economic system is heavily rigged against women, especially women alone. If anything happens in terms of a job, everything they have worked for is gone overnight. There is no buffer of a man's income to cushion that blow.
More women are falling through the cracks, especially if they are past 55, which is considered past their expiration date in terms of being in the labor force.
A book I have started reading is a book I overlooked when it came out. It is called The Sexual Contract, published in 1988 and written by a now-retired UCLA academic, Carole Pateman. She was born in Britain in 1940. She is less well-known than other writers or feminists who have covered much of the same ground. In this book she wrote about this concept of the "family wage." Of course, it forms the basis of sex discrimination in the workplace. It cannot be denied. Despite gains by women over the decades, women are still heavily disadvantaged in the labor market. In fact, they are perhaps more dependent on men than ever (and vice versa) for a decent lifestyle thanks to outsourcing and destroying of well-paid, unionized jobs as pushed by the poisonous neoliberal ideology.
Anyway, I started reading Pateman's book. The book is a little bit dry, as are most academic works, but she makes a lot of good points.
Nothing has changed in the 30 years since it was published.
On a similar note, I went to a retirement planning seminar the school district's investment outfit put on, and the presenters were talking about all of the various things people need in order to have a decent retirement. Of course, I started Oregon public employment, part-time regular employment, when I was 59, so I will not be vested in Oregon PERS until 2019, when I am 64 years old. Maybe some district will hire me on a part-time certificated basis, as I do not want to work full-time anymore, but those jobs are extremely hard to come by. My pension would be much higher and I would not have to work as many years to get the monthly payout. Under NO circumstances do I want to ever have a cash payout. I have a monthly pension through Nevada PERS that I started taking five years ago. It isn't much--$318 a month and subject to WEP when I get Social Security next year--but after the third year of getting it I got annual COLA increases. By the time I hit 71, the small amount will start to snowball significantly when the 5 percent annual increase kicks in, assuming I don't kick off first. Similarly Oregon's would increase, but since I am on the Tier 3 program, it won't be quite as good as those who got on Oregon public employment and qualified for Tier 1 and 2 (people are designated a "tier" depending on when they were hired).
Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot that was relevant to my case. At one point the presenters talked about how 33 percent of the average retiree's income comes from work. In other words, those who are "retired" on the average cannot ever retire. I don't believe that many people are so lacking in interests and hobbies they are masochistic enough they want to remain in the labor force in some way.
Most of these people work because they have to.
Just like me, and I will likely have to until I can't physically do the work anymore.