Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Why Work beyond 65? Discourse on the Decision to Continue Working or Retire Early

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Why Work beyond 65? Discourse on the Decision to Continue Working or Retire Early

Article excerpt


In most of the industrial world, the proportion of older people in society is continuously increasing due to demographic change. It is estimated that by the year 2050, more than 33% of men and 38% of women in the EU25 (European Union of 25 member states) will be aged 60 years or above, up from 18% of men and 24% of women in 2000 [The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2007]. The population is ageing and the old age support ratio is decreasing. In the countries included in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the ratio was 4.9 in 2008, but is estimated to be 2.1 by 2050 (OECD, 2011). In other words, 4.9 people in the working population aged 20-64 years supported every person aged 65 years or older in 2008, but only 2.1 in 2050. In the Nordic countries, the old age support ratio is estimated to decrease from 5.1 in 2008 to 2.0 in 2050 in Iceland; from 4.1 to 2.3 in Norway; from 3.7 to 2.0 in Finland; from 3.7 to 2.3 in Denmark; and from 3.3 to 2.2 in Sweden (OECD, 2011). This will have economic and budgetary implications for maintaining the welfare state. Many societies have to motivate people to work until an older age to increase the number of working hours in the economy (Danish Labour Market Commission, 2009; Eurostat, 2010; SOU, 2012). Some countries have already decided to increase the retirement age. Between 1995 and 2010, the average retirement age increased by 0.5 years among women and 0.8 years among men in the OECD countries (SOU, 2012). In the Nordic countries, the statutory retirement age in Finland is 65 years, in Iceland 67 years, and in Denmark 67 years for those born after 1960 (Folkpensionslag Finland; Nordiska socialförsäkringsportalen; Social pension Denmark). In Norway, the retirement age with full economic benefits is 67 years, but the system is flexible and it is possible to have 20-100% pension from 62 until 75 years of age (Arbeidsdepartementet Norway, 2012). In Sweden, the retirement age is also 67 years, but since 2000 it has been possible to start drawing an occupational pension from 61 years of age (RFV, 2004; SOU, 2012). However, the economic benefits increase if the individual remains in working life. After a worker's 67th birthday, it is up to the employer to decide whether that individual can continue in work (RFV, 2004).

However, the statutory level of retirement says nothing about older people's own experience and decision making on whether they can and want to continue to work. If countries want to postpone the retirement age and encourage more people to extend their working life, more information is needed about the process of retirement planning and pension decision making by individuals.

The overall aim of this study was to understand retirement decisions among people who had left working life before 65 years of age and those working beyond 65 years in an extended working life. An additional aim was to construct a model about their considerations, weighting, and decision making and important factors and themes in working beyond 65 years of age or retiring before age 65. Specific research questions were the following: How do interviewees describe their decision on extending their working life in relation to their social surroundings and situation? What are the discursive boundaries in interviewees' descriptions of work or retirement? How do interviewees rank important factors in their planning and retirement decision making, i.e., what represents their identity as a person who retired early or is working beyond 65 years of age?

Method and sampling

The data in this qualitative study were collected by semi-structured interviews (Kvale, 2001). The questions asked in these interviews were intended to provide a deeper understanding and knowledge about older people's own subjective experience and perspective of their situation and work environment. A person working beyond 65 years was defined as an 'older worker' and a person who had left working life before 65 as an 'early retiree. …

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