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The process of participation and phased retirement: Evidence from mature aged workers in Australia

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Product Description

By Jacqueline M Drew, Michael E Drew

Published: 2005
ISBN: 978-1-876682-86-6
Pages: xlv+130
Imprint: Post Pressed


The work reported highlights important matters beyond the traditional economic focus on labour market efficiency by quantifying some of the complex characteristics and interactions important to individuals in their choices regarding work and retirement.

The book indicates a direction for workplace reform, particularly for employers addressing age management across the life course.

Professor Margaret Steinberg AM
Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies
Queensland University of Technology


This research is extremely timely. The authors are to be congratulated for going beyond the usual focus on financial barriers and incentives to take into account the full range of contextual, social and psychological influences on mature aged workforce participation.

I was particularly impressed with the recognition of the psychological motivators and benefits of work, which have been largely neglected in recent discussions of workforce ageing. I commend this study to anyone concerned to maintain productivity in the coming decades of increasing population ageing.

Dr Rob Ranzijn
Social Gerontologist
University of South Australia

Table of Contents

Executive Summary


  • Organisation of the Study

Literature Review

  • Introduction
  • Trends in Labour Market Participation
  • Productive Ageing
  • The Economics of Labour Supply and Participation
  • Models and Variable Selection
  • Research Questions


  • Subjects
  • Measures
  • Procedure


  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Structural Equation Modelling (SEM)
  • Analysis of Variables


  • Introduction
  • Research Question 1: To identify how to increase the participation of mature workers in the Labour Market
  • Research Question 2: To identify barriers to participation
  • Research Question 3: To identify the costs and benefits, price and non-price, of engaging mature workers from the perspective of the employee (supply-side) and employer (demand-side)
  • Conclusions


  • Introduction
  • Contribution of the study
  • Limitations of the current research program and directions for future research



Reviewer: Kate Shacklock
Lecturer, Griffith Business School
Gold Coast QLD, Australia

Published in
Journal of Management & Organization (2009)

Australia is part of a global shortage of skills, caused by an ageing workforce and a combination of factors including increased life expectancy, continuing low fertility rates and healthier lifestyles.

In 2008 Australia, like most other OECD countries, needs to encourage skilled mature workers to continue working so as to help meet these shortages, and to find ways of providing the right environment (financial as well as personal) for this to occur. The Process of Participation and Phased Retirement: Evidence From Mature-aged Workers in Australia addresses this important and relevant topic. One of the strengths of the book is the Australian focus, when most English-language based research in this area has occurred in the USA and UK. Secondly, it combines contributions from the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre (NSPAC) and the Queensland University of Technology, with support from the Department of Health and Ageing and a variety of academic and other players.

Published in 2005, this book would have been a valuable resource contribution to the policy-makers and researchers of the day interested in ageing workforce issues in Australia.

The book is written from two discipline perspectives - (micro)economics and psychology - leading to an exploration of any barriers to participation, what cost-benefit participation rates have for organisations, plus the cost-benefits for mature individuals in choosing to stay or leave the workforce. Both perspectives then contribute to the focus of the book - the problems of choice of mature-aged workers (those aged 55+ years) to participate in or withdraw from the labour market.

Using the consumer behaviour theory, the book proposes the need for organisations to embrace the notion of phased retirement, not just the traditional and mutually exclusive extremes: working or not-working. Possibly because of this, the book focuses on the retirement decision, the factors affecting that decision and why mature workers might make the decision to retire or phase out of the workforce at particular times. This research explores an under-researched area by sampling over 900 people who are either working or retired. However, the book does not address whether mature workers might wish to remain working. There is an apparent assumption that, if the right environment is provided, mature workers will participate.

The book appears to be a publication based on a doctoral dissertation, and as such suffers from a preponderance of academic content, including a large methods section. It is the results section that is likely to be of most interest to many readers. The major findings regarding increasing participation rates of mature workers are organised against each of the three research questions. They include both economic and psychological factors, well-explained in the Discussion chapter. Each group of factors is discussed and comments provided. While describing the results comprehensively, there is limited integration of the findings. For example, a separate section on implications for organisations/management would have been beneficial for the reader.

As expected, the executive summary represents the contents and key findings of the research undertaken. However, it is presented in a way familiar to researchers (with reported means for variables) but not necessarily helpful to the CEO or manager non-academic, especially without also reporting the scale used.

In the Literature Review chapter, several early figures are presented with an axis of 'age group' in a counter-intuitive direction, making interpretation more intricate. Such confusing presentation would not assist the reader to comprehend the important information being presented in the diagram. The Methods chapter could be replaced with more valuable information rather than simply detailing the methods used. Because there were no especially innovative approaches used, 17 pages dedicated to detailing the research design and process seems excessive if the book was aimed at the general reader and practitioner.

The Results and Discussion chapters are where the general reader begins to get rewarded for hanging-in past the academic detail. Using both organisational and individual levels of analysis, these chapters begin to unravel the complicated story of mature workers and their participation. The story has a happy ending, with the Conclusion suggesting how organisations could improve the likelihood of participation by mature workers.

There is however, no explanation as to why the authors chose the age of 55 years as that for the focus of the book. At the time of the book's writing, there was no agreed age at which a worker becomes 'mature' or 'older', with varying ages being used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (45 years and older). In contrast, the Australian Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) uses the age of 45 as their benchmark for 'older', arguing workers over the age of 45 are disadvantaged when it comes to finding work. As the average of retirement for Australians was 48 (41 for women and 58 for men) (ABS 1998), the choice of 55 years may well be too late for many mature workers in their retirement planning and decision-making process.

In 005, the book would certainly have made a contribution to the debate and information gathering necessary at the time. However, there are several important reports and publications available at the time (including Encel & Studencki (2004). 'Older workers: Can they succeed in the job market?' Australasian Journal on Ageing 23(1): 33-37; Department of Treasury (2004) A more flexible and adaptable retirement income system; Department of Treasury (2004) Australia's Demographic Challenges) apparently not covered by the authors. One important event not mentioned was the proclamation of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 that, significantly, purged mandatory age-based retirement.

The growth in research has been significant about the challenges concerning the ageing workforce, similarly being addressed by management and organisations in many countries, with separate streams now not uncommon at management and HRM conferences. Today's reader needs to be aware that since this book was published, there have been several important research outputs (for example, OECD (2007) Australia: Ageing and the Public Service, as part of a 19-country research project looking at HRM challenges; Phillipson and Smith (2005) Extending working life: A review of the research literature. Norwich UK, Department for Work and Pensions), including attempts to identify those factors affecting the individual mature worker's intentions to continue in employment (including work by Shacklock).

In all cases, a common feature has been the strong impact of the financial resources available to the individual upon the decision to participate. As such, any current debate needs to also include the changes around superannuation and government-sponsored age pensions (in Australia and many other ageing countries) that have a major impact upon mature workers' retirement or participation decisions. It will be interesting to see how the current economic downturn will affect the decision to retire, especially in relation to the large superannuation losses experienced by many that may be considering retirement.

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