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Study: Decision to Leave Workforce Tough for Males


A new study reveals that the decision to leave the workforce is one of the toughest decisions many men ever make.

In the industrialized world, over 30 per cent of retirees continue to work after official retirement. According to data collected in 2000, 15 per cent of Americans of retirement age return to the labour force.

Dr. Orit Nuttman-Shwartz, a sociologist at Sapir Academic College (Negev, Israel), recently studied 56 Jewish males four to six months prior to retirement and again 11 to 16 months following retirement. His goal was to understand attitudes toward work on the eve of retirement, as well as to examine the connection between continuing to work after retirement and post-retirement adjustment.

The study is published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development (Vol. 64 (2), 2007).

In Israel, retirement is determined by collective labour agreements that are regulated by law and apply to two-thirds of the workforce. At the time of the study, mandatory retirement kicked in for men at 65 and women at 60. Study participants came from 14 different workplaces, evenly divided between service and production sectors. Just under two-fifths of participants held managerial positions. The remainder had in line positions. Born between 1932 and 1934, most participants immigrated to Israel in their teens or early adulthood. The vast majority had at least some high school education. Almost all
were married (93 per cent) and had two or more children (96.6 per cent). Close to half (48.8 per cent) were in good health with the other half reporting poor health (51.81 per cent), such as high blood pressure or a heart condition. Most of the men participated in a pre-retirement workshop.

No life without work

According to the author, almost 70 per cent of participants claimed in pre-retirement interviews that there is no life without work.

As "Menasheh" put it, "Work is a drug; I have to find a framework to prevent myself from getting bored, and I hope I do."

Fear of getting in a rut

Approximately one-third of participants feared they would become inactive or unproductive, after retiring.

As "Reuven" explained:

Today I am preoccupied by how I will fill my time . . . I know that being busy is important to prevent boredom and mental and physical decay. You can travel abroad for a while . . . and then, what do you do? It is impossible to stay at home and do nothing. So I’m inquiring into studying, completing things that I never did, I’m looking for a place where I will be useful (volunteer work). I hope to succeed.

"Moshe" added, "People should be taught how to live after retirement. They shouldn’t feel guilty and should know how to use their time . . . They need to learn to sense their own development and they need dreams. Only then will people be creative and constructive."

Free at last

According to the author, only eight participants welcomed retirement as freedom from work. For example, "Meir" described retirement as "discovering the light."


According to the author, 36 per cent of participants continued to work one year after formal retirement. Fifty-five per cent remained in the same workplace but with lower salary, fewer hours and a less influential job. About 25 per cent worked for another employer under a retiree wage agreement. One was self-employed and one did not retire at all.

The working group included managers and line employees from both the industrial and service sectors. Reasons for continuing to work ranged from the need for additional income to the fear of losing meaning in life. Interestingly, the study found no difference in post-retirement adjustment between those who were fully retired and those who continued to work.

Implications for personal well being and social policy

According to the author, the findings suggest retirement is a complex phenomenon, which means different things to different people. The present labour market is not ready to absorb aging employees. On the other hand, some individuals have difficulty defining a new self-identity and launching a new life chapter after retirement. The author suggests that new labour policies are required to help retirees develop a road map for the post-retirement years.