Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Factors Affecting Prolonged Working Life for the Older Workforce: The Swedish Case

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Factors Affecting Prolonged Working Life for the Older Workforce: The Swedish Case

Article excerpt

Introduction

Retirement does not lend itself to a simple definition; it is a construct that has many different connotations. In some cases, retirement means almost a ceremonial departure from working life. In other words, it means retiring from a permanent position or a radical down-shifting from work. As a construct, however, the concept of retirement has had a major influence on how the older work force is viewed and how the older work force views their role or the ending of that role within the labor market.

The past 40 years have seen a shift in how policy-makers talk about aging in working life (Hamblin, 2010). In fact, recent policy reforms have meant that there are currently new opportunities for and demands on people to remain in employment after retirement age (Euwals et al., 2010). Thus, the key argument is no longer that the old workforce must give way for the young (often presented as the right to withdraw from labor). Instead, old age is discussed as an active and productive phase. This new rhetoric can be seen in light of increasing welfare costs, which are partly due to longer life expectancies. That is why early retirement has also become increasingly problematic, since it leads to a reduction of the labor force, implying a reduced tax base for governments (OECD, 2006; Radl, 2013). The problem is that an increasing number of citizens are dependent on an ever-decreasing workforce at the same time as a longer life expectancy increases the demand for goods and services, which in turn increases the demand for labor. This situation seems to present both challenges and opportunities. A central challenge is that working conditions for the older workforce need to be of sufficient quality for these workers to postpone their retirement decision as long as possible (Tuomi et al., 2001). Consequently, research is needed to understand the mechanisms that affect individuals' choices to either stay in employment or leave for retirement.

The aim of the present paper is to uncover some of the mechanisms that may make the older workforce willing and able to stay employed. Our case country is Sweden and we will concentrate on work-related factors that take into account individuals' resources to meet the demands of the job.

The remainder of the paper begins with a presentation of previous research on retirement behavior. We then discuss our analytical point of departure and present our empirical data. We follow this by presenting our results and, finally, a discussion of our main findings.

Background

In the present study, we highlight factors that may cause employees to stay in their jobs after reaching the age of eligibility for old-age pension. Most research in this area has concentrated on the retirement process, that is, the factors that cause employees to Leave working life for retirement (Schalk et al., 2010; Wang & Shultz, 2010). The decision to leave the labor market is described in the literature as a major life event, a detachment process that makes employees feel less committed to work. The push model (or ejection model) describes the factors that explain why people leave the labor market. It is a 'negative' model in the sense that it describes the problems that old employees can experience, which eventually support the decision to retire (demands, pressure from the work collective, negative attitudes from the employer, health, ageism, etc.). The pull model (or attraction model), on the other hand, describes the positive and voluntary factors of retirement (more leisure, for example). This model involves a weighting of pros and cons between working and private life before a decision is made (Radl, 2013).

Work-related factors

The main focus of the present study is on the significance of work-related factors. Previous research has found several such factors to be of importance for the retirement process (van den Berg et al., 2008). In general, dissatisfying jobs and jobs with high physical and psychological demands are believed to push employees into retirement, while creative and complex jobs seem to retain workers in employment (Elovainio et al. …

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