Sustaining working lives: the challenge of retention

Donald Hirsch

in The future for older workers

Published by Policy Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9781847424181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303800 | DOI:
Sustaining working lives: the challenge of retention

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An early exit from working life might be interpreted in one of the three ways. One is that people are taking a positive choice to increase their lifetime leisure. Second, is that they face distorted financial incentives to retire or claim invalidity benefits rather than continue working, and therefore do not have to face the true economic cost of a decision to leave work. Third, is that people lack sufficient opportunity and capacity to carry on working, regardless of their preferences and the economic consequences. For a decade, early retirement was seen largely in positive terms. People retiring were seen as people enjoying the fruits of prosperity. However, in the following few years, the view of an early exit from work was reversed due to economic imperatives and the feared consequences of falling labour participation combined with lengthening life expectancy. As a result, much of the public debate has focused on the second factor, retirement incentives and for making the cost of retirement bearable for the individual. At the same time, while financial considerations have profound influences, the workforce exit is more about whether people are able to continue working than whether they think it is financially worthwhile. This chapter examines how policy makers, employers and individuals might approach the issue of job retention. It also suggests that the most effective responses move beyond a focus on the immediate circumstances surrounding retirement, to consider how working lives need to change to make them more sustainable.

Keywords: working life; early retirement; exit from work; falling labour participation; retirement incentives; workforce exit; job retention

Chapter.  6889 words. 

Subjects: Gerontology and Ageing

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