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Job change in later life

New SHARE-based study explores the impact of switching to a less-demanding job in older age

(October 2018) As policy makers attempt to adapt social policies to the demographic dynamics of European countries, working in old age has gained critical relevance for individuals as well as for society. Previous SHARE-based studies have been able to show that pension reforms succeed in postponing the retirement age, hence increasing the number of older people in the active work force. In view of this trend, some people have been extending their working lives by transitioning to a job that requires a more limited skill set and that is connected to lower status. Still, the so called downward occupational mobility (DOM) in later life remains under-researched. Nekola et al. take on this topic and explore how switching to a lower-status job affects job satisfaction and the perceptions of working conditions among older Europeans.

Combining SHARE and HRS data

The authors merge data from the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement (SHARE) with input from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). With their final dataset Nekola et al. analyse data provided by 130.000 European adults aged 50 or over from 28 countries and Israel.

Going down the career ladder can be beneficial

In accordance with some previous literature, Nekola et al. find that switching to a position with a lower status can be beneficial. On average, going down the career ladder improves one’s job satisfaction and perception of workload pressure. Further, this does not cause a statistically significant deterioration of levels of autonomy and opportunities for further development.

Despite all indicated advantages of DOM, the authors observe that switching to a lower-level position might increase the perception of physical workload. Still, the offsetting benefits of DOM imply that this type of job change in later life might be seen as a way of remaining in the active work force without feeling the pressure of work responsibilities.

Policy makers and employers can shape and promote job change in later life

The outcomes of this study contribute to the argument that working beyond retirement age could be beneficial for some aspects of working conditions. Considering the increase in job satisfaction and the decrease in workload pressure, it could be assumed that DOM could help improve and maintain mental and physical health, as other SHARE-based studies have already indicated. ”Employers and policy makers (…) should consider that DOM as a downshifting phenomenon may have positive impacts and should be promoted and encouraged when both the company and the older worker experience positive outcomes”, conclude the authors.


Study by Martin Nekola, Andrea Principi, Michal Švarc, Markéta Nekolová & Deborah Smeaton (2018): Job change in later life: A process of marginalization?, Educational Gerontology. Online first.

URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03601277.2018.1490162

Foto: Fotolia / Chaay_tee