Work and satisfaction with life among 60-69-year-old women and men in seven European countries

Mare Ainsaar

The article analyses the factors affecting women’s and men’s retirement decisions and satisfaction with life among working and non- working 60-69-year-olds in seven European countries with different labour markets and pension systems – Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany. The primary aim is to find out whether continuing to work affects women’s and men’s satisfaction with life. The data was derived from the integrated database of the 2004, 2006, 2008- 2009 data collection rounds of the European Social Survey (ESS). 

The results demonstrate that both universal and gender-specific factors affect retirement decisions. Universal factors affecting the time of retirement include age and health. Economic wellbeing and education are associated with the decision to continue working in advanced years, but there are more country- and gender-specific differences in this respect. Working is usually accompanied by a more positive attitude towards economic wellbeing, especially among men, and the longer a person’s educational career, the more likely they are to continue to work at 60-69. Both male and female workers have a higher need for success and consider a safe environment less important. However, there are differences in the pro le of the working senior by country, which derive from the specificity of the labour markets of the countries and the nature of men’s and women’s work. 

In all countries seniors’ satisfaction with life was affected by health, income, the range of social contacts and trust in other people. The analyses of work and satisfaction with life among 60-69-year-olds demonstrated that work itself did not make seniors more or less satisfied with life. e only exception was Denmark, where working seniors were less satisfied with life. The preliminary results for Estonia and Finland that showed a higher level of satisfaction with life among working seniors were actually affected by working seniors’ better health and incomes. In some countries the wellbeing of seniors was also affected by a lack of a perception of discrimination, gender and the partner’s involvement in the labour market. 

The results of the analysis allow us to conclude that the increase in the age of retirement and the norms of people’s health and working age could be a relatively painless process, especially in view of the general changed nature of work. The results demonstrate the great in influence of health on the wish to continue to work as a senior. If we could increase the number of years lived healthy, we can hope that people’s motivation to work does not decrease with age. However, age was an important independent factor influencing the decision to continue to work. This might be explained by the social norms concerning the age of workers. With the increase in working age, these norms should change as well.