Determinants of Work Motivation and Work Ability among Older Workers and Implications for the Desire for Continued Employment

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Comparative Population Studies, Volume 35, Issue 4, p.931-958 (2010)



Employee motivation, Extended working life, Health, Older workers


In times of demographic change, with the associated challenges for social security systems and the looming lack of skilled workers, extending working life becomes increasingly significant. According to the continuity theory (Atchley 1989) we can assume that individuals who are satisfied with their structures and performance will stay at work longer. We will therefore examine whether motivation and perceived work ability have an influence on the desire for continued employment. In addition, we will answer the question of whether factors that have a positive influence on motivation and work ability also have a direct influence on continued employment. Besides objective factors such as enterprise size and occupational status, we will examine subjective factors, such as assessment of recognition, the demands, and the meaningfulness of the work for their contributions to the explanation. The following analysis is based on a survey taken in May 2008 together with the Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (BiB). It enables us to identify the desire for continued employment in old age, the existing work motivation, and the state of health. The core results of the statistical analysis show that in men high motivation is linked to the desire for continued employment in retirement age. This does not apply to women; for them, work ability is the decisive criterion. In general, we observe that a positive assessment of the subjective influencing factors strengthen work motivation. In addition, with regard to objective factors it was ascertained that for men the working hour regime (full-time work) and occupation status (salaried “white-collar” employees) correlate positively with the desire for continued employment. In particular, meaningful work increases motivation among men and work ability increases motivation among women. It appears important that enterprises convince their employees of the meaningfulness of the work.