Some older adults will be forced to retire early because of health concerns. Retirement is also influenced by the kind of work available. Older adults wonder if they can find companies that will hire older workers and offer the flexible employment arrangements many of them prefer. Some older adults may delay retirement if their jobs are less physically demanding, but others will not if the work is intense or puts their health in jeopardy.
Job trends identified in the study include
- The share of jobs that require high cognitive ability and strong interpersonal skills has grown from about one-quarter to more than one-third over the past 35 years.
- Workers 50 and older have experienced sharper declines in physically demanding work than younger people but steeper increases in stressful, cognitively demanding work.
- The share of workers in jobs that are high stress or involve difficult interpersonal dealings more than doubled between 1971 and 2006. Jobs that require interaction with “unpleasant people” may make work less appealing and retirement more appealing to older adults.
- More than one-third of workers work in occupations that require high cognitive ability such as complex problem solving and more than two-thirds are in occupations that require some cognitive ability such as information processing.
- The shift away from physically demanding work and toward stressful work has been more prevalent for women than men.
- About 44 percent of jobs today involve some stress – such as conflict situations, competition, and time pressures like meeting strict deadlines.
- Almost 35 percent of workers are employed in occupations requiring high cognitive ability and nearly 70 percent work in jobs that required some cognitive ability. Computer use is very or extremely important in about 43 percent of jobs.
The study used detailed occupational characteristics from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) to examine job demands. O*NET is a comprehensive database of job characteristics produced by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The study also applied Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment projections to examine future trends.
In Brief prepared by Sara E. Rix, Ph.D., AARP Public Policy Institute
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