Speaking at a B&CE and Social Market Foundation event at the Labour party conference in Brighton last week, Eagle said she understood why Age Concern and Help the Aged had challenged the DRA rules in court but that it was important to recognise it did play a role in preventing enforced early retirement.
Under current law, employers have the right to force workers to retire at 65 although the employee may stay in work if the employer agrees.
Age Concern and Help the Aged took the Government to the High Court to challenge these rules on the grounds of age discrimination but the court found in favour of the Government last month.
Eagle said: “I think it is important to stand up for the default retirement age a bit, it did prevent and make it illegal to choose people in their 50s over younger people for redundancy, so it prevented enforced early redundancies.
“The interesting thing is that in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, huge numbers of people, particularly men, were shaken out of the labour market by being picked for early retirement. The default retirement age has stopped that happening in this recession and I think that is a very good thing because there were many men who were shaken out who never worked again.”