A recent article by Alicia Munnell, Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College in the US highlights that not only are older workers working longer but they are increasingly moving from one job to another. For example in 1983, the average tenure of men aged 55-64 was 15.3 years; by 2008 it had declined to 10.1 years (figures relate to 2008 rather than 2010 to separate long-term trends from the effects of the recession). Although tenure was down across the board, it was most pronounced amongst older workers.
The article continues:
“An even more direct way to show the decline in career employment is to see how many workers toward the end of their careers are still with the employer they had at age 50. In 1983, 63% of men 58-62 were with their age-50 employer; by 2008, that figure had dropped to 47%. Although career employment is more common among workers with more education the shift away from career employment was consistent across educational groups.”
The question, of course, is whether the increased mobility is voluntary or enforced to which the answer is “we don’t know”.
“On the one hand, data on displacement rates, which report layoffs for reasons other than job performance, have not increased for older workers. These data would suggest that separations of older workers are largely due to quits, not layoffs. The distinction between layoffs and quits, however, is not always clear. Employers can reduce a worker’s compensation or increase job demands. Workers could also feel insecure in their current job, due to technological change or increased competition, especially from overseas. If workers quit in response to such pressures, they would be leaving on their own volition, but the decline of career employment could not be characterized as a positive development.”
In respect of whether increased mobility of older workers is helpful or harmful to working longer the picture is similarly cloudy.
“The new jobs generally pay less and are less likely to offer pension and health insurance coverage. This fall in wages and benefits makes continued employment less attractive vis-à-vis retirement. On the other hand, workers who shift jobs often report less stress and an increase in job satisfaction that makes work more attractive vis-à-vis retirement. The fall in wages and benefits also reduces household wealth, and this “wealth effect” also encourages continued employment. How workers respond depends on the strength of these various effects.”
The article bears out my own research that older people want to work longer but not just by doing more of the same. It also highlights some of the complexities in terms of factors affecting objective and subjective work and career motivation in later life.
In light of the current focus in the UK around the abolition of the default retirement age, this interesting insight into what later life working actually looks like – or is going to look like – is invaluable. To the best of my knowledge we don’t have similar information available for the UK; it would be good to hear about it if anyone knows differently.
To read the full article go to: http://blogs.smartmoney.com/encore/2011/08/15/are-older-workers-job-hopping-more/