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Final Report Summary - WOPINS (Walking Old Paths in New Shoes: Individual Trajectories to Retirement and the Welfare State in Austria and Germany)

The central aim of this Marie Curie project has been to contribute to our knowledge about the determinants of retirement decisions in different societal contexts (cross-national comparative research). The focus has been on social security incentives (‘pull factors’) that encourage older workers to leave the labour market as well as on ‘push factors’ that drive older workers out of the labour market. A strong emphasis has been on demand-side barriers to the retention or hiring of older workers (e.g. strong legal protection against dismissal for older workers in many European countries, seniority wage systems that provide economic incentives for employers to encourage early retirement). To further our understanding of these issues, the project has set out to investigate the employment of older workers, their retirement behaviour as well as their retirement preferences. In this way it has aimed to account for the role of older workers and of employers in retirement decisions. It has sought to advance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms – distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary labour market exit.

To realise the objectives of the project, I carried out the following main tasks.

1.1. I carried out an extensive review of the literature on older workers, the quality of their work, their well-being and retirement preferences, intentions and behaviours. This review formed an important background for my research on the monetary and nonmonetary factors that shape retirement decisions. Parts of the review will be published in the ‘Encyclopaedia of Quality of Life Research’ (Springer) (see publications).
1.2. I carried out an extensive review of the literature on the neoclassical micro-economic model of retirement, its merits and shortcomings. The focus of this review has been on research concerned with the evaluation of the impact of retirement incentives and pension reform – using state-of-the-art econometric tools. This review also formed an important background for my research within the MC project. I presented its findings at the Workshop on Policy Impact Evaluation, organised by Dr Raya Muttarak (Marie Curie Fellow at the EUI at the time) and Prof. Martin Kohli at the EUI in May 2011.
1.3. Together with Martina Dieckhoff (WZB), I worked on a research study that examined how institutional change affects age-based labour market inequalities in Europe (using data from the EU Labour Force Survey). We focused on the impact of employment protection, the deregulation of temporary work and wage setting institutions. This study was presented to peers on several occasions (international conferences and workshops, see dissemination for details). The study first appeared as a EUI Working Paper and has now been published in the SSCI-ranked International Journal of Comparative Sociology.
1.4. I have been part of the questionnaire design team for Round 5 of the European Social Survey and used this opportunity for fielding questions about individuals’ retirement preferences in more than 20 European countries, together with questions on individuals’ employment commitment and the quality of their jobs (at different ages). The survey has been fielded in 2010/2011 and has presented an invaluable source of data for the Marie Curie project. I carried out a research study, together with Martin Kohli, on the effective and preferred ages of retirement in Europe (see below for detail). Moreover, I studied the extent to which different age groups were affected by the economic crisis in terms of their employment commitment (see below for detail). Further studies are planned addressing the quality of jobs for workers at different ages as well as the impact of current job quality on preferred ages of retirement. During the fellowship I have already done some work in this area, together with Florian Pichler, using data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) on job quality in terms of job autonomy, job interest, job security, work stress and exhaustion.
1.5. Some explorative analyses of retirement trajectories have been carried out using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (access was kindly organised by the EUI). Moreover, Austrian register data has been explored as regards its suitability as a basis for sequence analysis. The nature of the data allows only for limited flexibility – since internals decide on the specific coding of daily spell information and the creation of new variables. The current structure of the data do not allow for the intended analyses, yet, collaboration with relevant colleagues has been established with the aim of realising the project aim of analysing retirement trajectories in Austria in the near future.

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