Demographic change is changing the face of working life across the EU. The increased demand on a shrinking pool of workers to provide for the social needs of an ageing population is leading to increases in the employment rate of older workers and a lengthening of working life. Policy reforms have – on the whole – focused on raising the statutory retirement age and providing financial incentives for older workers to remain in work beyond retirement age. However, a range of other factors also influence workers’ decision to continue working into old age – including health and well-being, work–life balance, career prospects and job security, and working conditions such as autonomy, hours of work and psychosocial aspects of the workplace. This report analyses these factors in depth for the 28 EU Member States, using data from the latest European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2015) and in the context of Eurofound’s concept of ‘sustainable work over the life course’.
- Poor working conditions have a negative impact on sustainable work outcomes for all employees, regardless of age. Employees who are exposed to physical risks and quantitative demands (working at high speed and to tight deadlines) are more likely to experience worse health and poorer work–life balance. They are also more likely to state that they will not be able to continue work until age 60. Intention to depart the workforce earlier is also significantly associated with poor-quality management and experiencing adverse social behaviour.
- Some aspects of working conditions remain stable or deteriorate until the age of 55 and then improve. Workers aged 55 and above report less exposure to physical risks, shorter weekly working hours and greater working time autonomy; older employees also report better work–life balance. However, older employees also participate less in training, and have more limited career prospects.
- Workers aged 45–54 years report fewer quantitative demands but their level of exposure to physical risks is nearly as high as that of younger workers.
- A critical issue for employees aged 35–44 years is work–life balance, since they tend to work longer hours and have more care responsibilities.
- Results are mixed for younger employees (aged 35 and under) regarding the social environment at work. They are more likely to have social support and positive encouragement from colleagues and their boss, but also experience more adverse social behaviour – particularly women. They are also the most likely to work on temporary contracts, which may contribute to the greater job insecurity they report.
- An analysis of the working conditions of workers of different ages also has to take into account differences between occupations. For all ages, a lower occupational level is associated with poorer health and well-being, and poorer career prospects. Especially for low- and mid- level occupations, working conditions are consistently poor over the life course. The impact of poor working conditions from a young age is likely to accumulate, resulting in poor outcomes at an older age.
- Unsurprisingly, working conditions vary by country and by age group across countries: in Hungary and Greece, work–life balance among older employees is much poorer than elsewhere. And for workers within the same occupation, country di erences in working conditions outcomes are also evident.
- Sustainable work outcomes a ect the expected duration of working life – not necessarily in expected ways. Belgium, for example, with generally a good picture of sustainable work, has a shorter duration of working life. Estonia, in contrast, with poorer results for sustainable work outcomes, has a longer duration of working life and higher employment rates at older ages. These differences could be due to di erent institutional arrangements that facilitate or hinder early retirement.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Working conditions of workers of different ages | Eurofound