Views on retirement of middle-aged employees

A recent study reveals that the majority of middle-aged employees would welcome flexible retirement arrangements. A total of 77% of the employees surveyed stated that they would prefer to work until the age of 65 years which is the official retirement age. Working a reduced number of hours after a certain age and a greater appreciation of their work by employers were mentioned as major motivating factors for employees who would be willing to work until the official retirement age.

The representative study on ‘ageing and remaining active’ (Älter werden – aktiv bleiben?!, 480 Kb PDF), conducted on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation (Bertelsmann Stiftung), among middle-aged employees reveals their attitude to work as they approach retirement age. The survey was carried out in May 2006, involving 1,001 employees aged between 35 and 55 years who were interviewed about issues concerning employability and ageing.

Over three quarters of the respondents expressed a wish to work until the age of 65 years which is the official retirement age (except for certain occupations). A further 60% of the respondents indicated a preference for flexible working arrangements that either offer the option of part-time work in their final years of employment or early retirement.

While the majority of the respondents are willing to accept responsibility for their own continued employability, they also believe that employers should play a part in this role. For instance, being given more demanding tasks at work by employers to develop the required skills is cited as an important measure to ensure their continued employability.

Study findings

With regard to the age of retirement, six out of 10 interviewees stated that they would prefer to decide individually the point at which they wanted to retire between the ages of 60 and 67 years. They also indicated that, if they chose to retire early before the official retirement age of 65 years, they would be willing to accept financial losses in terms of lower pensions.

Figure 1: Factors motivating employees to work until the age of 65 years, % of respondents

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Source: Bertelsmann Foundation, 2006

The study also analysed the factors cited by employees as potentially motivating their continued employment until retirement age (Figure 1). The findings showed that 75% of the respondents would be willing to work until the age of 65 years if they were provided with better opportunities for combining their private and professional life. This was followed by 72% of the respondents who expressed a desire to assume less physically onerous tasks. A further 70% of the respondents indicated that they would prefer to work a reduced number of hours or to accept the offer of part-time employment if available. Another 70% expressed a desire for greater appreciation of their work by superiors, while 66% regarded new and challenging duties as a main motivational factor for employment until the age of 65 years.

Responsibility for ensuring employability

Regardless of the educational level or age of respondents, 94% stated that they believed they were responsible for ensuring their own employability (Figure 2). However, 67% and 62% respectively of the respondents felt that superiors or management were responsible for this too. Some 92% of these respondents specified that they wanted to be informed about continuous training opportunities by their employers, while 77% stated that they would like to participate in continuous training to enhance their employability. More than half of the employees surveyed (52%) believed that educational institutions, such as universities, vocational schools, adult educational centres or continuous training providers, were responsible for promoting their continued employability. Human resource departments (32%) and unions (20%) were not regarded by the respondents as having as important a role in this respect.

Figure 2: Person(s) responsible for ensuring employability until old age, % of respondents

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Source: Bertelsmann Foundation, 2006

Life after retirement

Finally, with regard to life after retirement, 81% of the interviewees stated that they would like to seek some form of employment in order to maintain their social contacts. Some 74% of the employees cited intellectual stimulation as an important reason for prolonging their employment. A similar percentage (71%) outlined that they wished to spend their time in retirement in a useful way. Interestingly, 71% of the respondents also referred to the need to earn an income as a reason for remaining in employment after retirement. This view was particularly prominent among the younger generation – those aged between 35 and 39 years – 82% of whom thought that they would have to work even after their retirement.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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