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Ageing towards meaningful work?: Age, labour market change and attitudes to work in the Swedish work force, 1979–2003
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5332-889X
2014 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Social Research, ISSN 1892-2783, Vol. 5, no 1, 161-189 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A central finding in earlier research is that attitudes to work generally are more positive among older workers than among younger workers. This result has been interpreted in two different ways, by the cultural and the structural hypotheses. The cultural hypothesis sees age differences as outcomes of generational differences. We would expect that different cohorts should hold different work attitudes and that the work values of an age group at an earlier point in time should be different from the work values of the same age group at a later point in time. The structural hypothesis sees age differences as expressions of labour market inequality between older and younger workers. This point of view leads us to expect that age differences in work attitudes will follow changes in the job structure and in working conditions.

Drawing on data from the Swedish survey of living conditions (ULF), attitude change within the Swedish work force during the period 1979–2003 was examined. Three sub-periods, 1986/1987, 1994 through 1996 and 2001 through 2003 were compared to 1979, the year of reference. The main results showed that a consistently lower share of the work force held extrinsic work values in the subsequent periods and this applied to all age groups. The results did not support the assumption that broader cultural differences between generations are central explanations of differences in work values. Older workers held extrinsic work values to a lesser degree than younger workers regardless of period. Most strikingly the gap between the youngest group on the labour market (aged 16

–29) and the older ones widened during the period. Furthermore, class differences in the distribution of the extrinsic attitude were intact throughout the study period; manual employees were consistently more likely to hold an extrinsic attitude than were service class employees. This implies that differences in the probability of extrinsic work attitudes have been identifiable regardless of period, but that their prevalence has decreased since jobs involving features related to extrinsic work values have decreased since 1979.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 5, no 1, 161-189 p.
Keyword [en]
age, work attitudes, labour market change
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-80803OAI: diva2:651596
Panel survey of ageing and the elderly
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Originally included in thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2013-09-26 Created: 2013-09-26 Last updated: 2014-12-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The long and winding road: A life course approach to retirement behaviour
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The long and winding road: A life course approach to retirement behaviour
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: This thesis explores the retirement behaviour of older people approaching retirement decisions. The research questions in focus deal with the attitudes toward work, the retirement preferences and the subjective well-being of the "youngest old", i.e. people aged 55–64. The included studies analyse the social determinants of these subjective evaluations and how they predict the timing of retirement and post-retirement well-being.

Methods: In the included studies, methods are used that allow us to follow developments over time. Repeated cross-sectional analyses are employed to examine general developments pertaining to the older work force. These include OLS and logistic regression analysis. Longitudinal analyses are used to follow individual developments over time. These include Structural equation modelling and Cox regression analysis.

Results: The results indicate that subjective evaluations such as attitudes to work and retirement preferences, as well as subjective well-being, are closely related to the structural conditions to which individuals are exposed, i.e. class position and work environment. The results also indicate that subjective evaluations such as preferred exit age and subjective well-being reported while in the work force are determinants of both the timing of retirement (in the case of preferred exit age and pre-retirement subjective well-being) and post-retirement subjective well-being (in the case of pre-retirement subjective well-being).

Also, results indicate that recent policy changes in the Swedish pension systems are reflected in the retirement preferences of the older work force. A comparison of two time-points representing the incentive structure of the old and the new pension systems indicates that preferences were delayed with pension reform.

Conclusion: The thesis contributes a temporal perspective to a research field that is dominated by research studying retirement behaviour at a single point of in time. The included studies underline the value of understanding retirement behaviour as a process rather than an isolated event. The way people evaluate their work, their well-being and their retirement prospects is intimately intertwined with their earlier experience. These subjective evaluations affect future retirement outcomes. Life course approaches offer illuminating tools for examining and explaining the significance of the biographies behind retirement behaviour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2013. 63 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508
Retirement Ageing Life course Well-being Work
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-80798 (URN)978-91-7459-720-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-10-18, Humanisthuset hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Panel Survey of ageing and the elderly
Available from: 2013-09-27 Created: 2013-09-26 Last updated: 2013-09-26Bibliographically approved

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