The role of health in flexible working arrangements in Germany

Avenues to a longer working life?

Die Bedeutung von Gesundheit bei flexiblen Arbeitszeitvereinbarungen in Deutschland

Wege in ein längeres Erwerbsleben?

Abstract

Background

In the context of retaining labour resources to meet demographic developments, phased retirement on the basis of flexible work (FW) aims at delaying the labor force exits of older workers.

Objective

How do health conditions relate to the use of FW as an instrument for gradual retirement to extend working lives?

Material and methods

By evaluating Cox proportional hazard models and by linking survey data from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) with register data from the Versichertenkontenstichprobe of the pension insurance records (VSKT), labor force exit rates at 50–65 years of age depending on health were analyzed.

Results

This study collated information about the discussion of labor flexibility as a tool to retain older workers in the labor market. It shows that reduced late career working hours leads to higher labor exit rates. Continuing to work in later life may be positively associated with health on the basis of FW, which fosters opportunities to work part-time. Employees with poor health are unlikely to prolong their working lives through FW and are more likely to leave the labor market early. In line with research pointing towards the emergence of new forms of inequality among older individuals by changing welfare state incentives, the findings show significant impacts of life-course determinants on labor exit behavior.

Conclusion

Increasing labour market retention on the basis of reducing working time depends on social attributes and personal preconditions. Influencing the attitude of older workers towards late retirement to adapt to future changes in societies remains a demand for research and policy debate discussing the benefits of gradual retirement for older workers.

Zusammenfassung

Hintergrund

Im Rahmen der Erhöhung des Arbeitskräftepotenzials, um demografischen Entwicklungen zu begegnen, soll durch Arbeitsmarktflexibilisierung die Erwerbsarbeitszeit verlängert werden.

Fragestellung

Welcher Zusammenhang existiert zwischen dem Gesundheitszustand und dem graduellen Ruhestand auf der Basis flexibler Arbeitszeit (FW) als Instrument zur Verlängerung von Erwerbsleben?

Material und Methode

Durch die Auswertung eines Cox-Modells mit proportionalem Ausfallrisiko auf Basis des verknüpften Datensatzes der Befragungsdaten des Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) mit den Registerdaten der Versichertenkontenstichprobe der Deutschen Rentenversicherung (VSKT) werden Arbeitsmarktaustrittsraten der 50- bis 65-Jährigen in Abhängigkeit der Gesundheit berechnet.

Ergebnisse

Es zeigt sich eine erhöhte Arbeitsmarktausfallrate für Arbeitnehmer, die ihre Arbeitszeit in der späten Erwerbsphase reduziert haben. Die Möglichkeit zur Teilzeitarbeit hängt positiv mit Gesundheit zusammen, wobei FW zur Verlängerung der Erwerbsarbeitszeit führt. Gemäß bestehender Literatur ergeben sich neue Formen der Ungleichheit zwischen älteren Arbeitnehmern im Kontext von Änderungen wohlfahrtsstaatlicher Anreizstrukturen, die sich anhand signifikanter Einflüsse von Lebensverlaufsdeterminanten im Arbeitsmarktaustrittsverhalten zeigen.

Schlussfolgerungen

Der Verbleib am Arbeitsmarkt durch die Reduktion von Arbeitsstunden ist abhängig von sozialen Attributen und persönlichen Merkmalen. Damit Einstellungen zum Verbleib am Arbeitsmarkt beeinflusst werden können, um zukünftigen gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen zu begegnen, bedarf es weiterer Forschung und Politikdebatten, die systematisch die Vorteile für ältere Arbeitnehmer herausarbeiten.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This concept was developed by Richard Thaler (e. g., [26]) and supports the notion of subtle policy shifts that encourage people to make decisions that lead to a socially desirable outcome.

  2. 2.

    EP reflects the level of income for a given year.

  3. 3.

    This is in addition to the various types of disability pensions, for which there is generally no minimum age requirement [24].

  4. 4.

    Detailed information on the data structure is given in [21].

  5. 5.

    Information was gathered from data on social incomes and on the height of EP. For individuals showing EP (referring to national average incomes) of below 60%, part-time employment was assumed [21].

  6. 6.

    The abbreviation ‘ref.’ refers to the reference category for which the largest category of variables is used when constructing dummy variables.

  7. 7.

    Controlling for cohorts is necessary to counteract differences observed by gender, as the Growth and Employment Promotion Act (WFG) of 1997 increased the age limit for women (born until 31.12.1951) from the year 2000 in monthly stages from 60 to 65 years in Germany.

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Acknowledgements

The effort of two anonymous referees is highly appreciated, whose valuable suggestions have helped greatly to improve the paper. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to Dave Wilkinson (NIESR) from the FACTAGE committee for insightful comments contributing to the finalisation of the paper. The FACTAGE project was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

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Correspondence to Charlotte Fechter.

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C. Fechter declares that she has no competing interests.

For this article no studies with human participants or animals were performed by any of the authors. All studies performed were in accordance with the ethical standards indicated in each case.

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Fechter, C. The role of health in flexible working arrangements in Germany. Z Gerontol Geriat 53, 334–339 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00391-019-01551-1

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Keywords

  • Late employment
  • Retirement pathways
  • Transitions
  • Survival analyses
  • SHARE-RV

Schlüsselwörter

  • Späte Erwerbsphase
  • Rentenpfade
  • Übergänge
  • Überlebenszeitmodelle
  • SHARE-RV