The PSI Blog

Older workers: kept in but not kept happy
Deborah Smeaton and Michael White

Unless older people stay employed and paying taxes for more years, the welfare state will crumble under the pension burden. So government policy since the 1990s has been designed to keep older employees working for longer.

But new research findings show that older employees became steadily more unhappy about their jobs from the early Nineties through to 2012. Their overall job satisfaction and organisational commitment fell over this period, relative to younger employees, and older employees became particularly unhappy about increased work pressures. Over the recession period, older employees also became dissatisfied with job insecurity and declining company pensions.

These findings come as a blow to both government and employers. Unhappy employees are likely to seek escape, damaging the prospects for the ‘keep workers in’ policy. Unhappiness at work also means lower performance in the job and a waning of the ‘loyalty’ that employers value.

To extend working life (EWL), government and employers will therefore have to think more about quality of working life (QWL).

Our findings are published in the journal Social Policy and Society. More details of the paper are available here.

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