Employees’ Emotional, Cognitive, and Behavioral Responses to Increasing Statutory Retirement Ages

Increasing statutory retirement ages around the world are forcing employees to prolong their working lives. We study the different ways in which mid- and late-career workers respond to such changes. We distinguish between negative emotions about working longer, cognitive engagement with prolonged employment, and pro-active behavior to facilitate longer working lives. We analyze data from 1,351 employees aged 40-66 from the Netherlands. We estimate a structural equation model to identify in which ways experiences of age discrimination, accessibility of accommodative HR facilities, and social norms in the workers’ social networks are related to the three different types of responses. Results show that when employees do not experience age discrimination, when their employer offers easily accessible accommodative HR facilities, and the social norms support prolonged employment, employees have fewer negative emotional reactions, and are more likely to behaviorally respond to facilitate longer working lives. When these contexts are misaligned, the reverse is generally found. We also find socio-economic differences in the ways employees respond to the prospect of prolonged employment. This study shows the importance of supportive contexts at different levels – societally, in organizations, and in individuals’ own lives – for policy changes such as increasing statutory retirement ages to be effective. Different responses between different socio-economic groups may lead to growing long-term inequality.

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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