Hear from a Researcher: Jaap Oude Mulders “Demographics and retirement go hand in hand”

Hear from a Researcher: Jaap Oude Mulders

“Demographics and retirement go hand in hand” 

The retirement landscape is in flux and there are always new questions in need of answers. Science plays an important role in this, as do young, new researchers who approach pension and retirement research with a fresh eye. In this series, we ask them about their motivations and findings. This time we talk to sociologist Jaap Oude Mulders (NIDI). He investigated employers’ and employees’ views on the aging workforce and people working longer. “A great deal has changed in the past ten years.”

“When I was awarded the International Research Grant, I was one of the first people at Netspar to perform sociological research. And I noticed at the researcher meetings that I truly had something new to add. It was interesting to be able to contribute to expanding the research perspective on the labor market and retirement. Meanwhile, I also learned a tremendous amount about finance and economics. Besides the fact that it was fun to bring these two worlds closer together, they are also obviously interconnected. The financial and economic aspects of pension and retirement research are driven by the underlying demographics: how many people are there? And how many of them are working?”

Employer Concerns
“Employers adopted an entirely different attitude to the aging workforce in 2016 compared to 2009. Policy changes encouraging people to work longer had stirred things up. Our study showed that concerns about people’s physical and mental ability to continue working increased in every sector. But employers also took action. Alongside the official terms of employment for older workers, such as the option of working from home or taking additional days off, we also clearly saw a rise in informal interventions. These included deliberately addressing healthy work practices – which is incredibly important for prolonged job proficiency – and the provision of good information by the employer concerning pensions. We were able to trace and quantify these trends by adding smart new questions to the existing questionnaire. It was a great challenge that yielded interesting results.”

Inequality
“Although raising the  entitlement age for social security is justifiable from a broad perspective, there is evidence of a growing inequality between well-educated and less-educated workers. This is primarily due to the fact that less-educated workers have less of a chance of reaching the social security entitlement age in good health with continued job satisfaction. They need more support and assistance in this than well-educated workers. It takes adequate preparation on someone’s part to remain permanently employable. That means people shouldn’t wait until they are 55 to think about how long they can keep doing the same job, but should start thinking about it when they are 40 and then anticipate accordingly by, for example, taking training. It remains to be seen whether such efforts can get off the ground moving forward. I believe that the government needs to take an active role in this, in addition to employers, in order to make people aware of these things earlier in their careers and stimulate sustainable employability.”

More Research
Jaap Oude Mulders is a researcher affiliated with the NIDI (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute). In 2019, he was the recipient of the first Instituut Gak KNAW Award. With that research grant, he is working on a new study over the next few years into the role social behavioral norms play in sustainable employability and working longer.

For more information, read about the research project here: “Uitstel van pensionering: Verwerken van reacties van werknemers en werkgevers” (Delayed retirement: Employer and employee responses; Jaap Oude Mulders and Kène Henkens; in Dutch). Or explore these sector-specific papers:

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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