Employment Exits Near Retirement Age: An Agency-analysis

Keywords: Health, Working Environment & Wellbeing, Work/Life Balance, Identity, Meaning & Culture, Organization & Management


Population aging has prompted international governing bodies to recommend extending work careers and postponing retirement age. Retirement decisions cannot be fully reduced to either structural influences or individual agency. Older workers may face several limiting factors when continuing their careers beyond the official retirement age, including internalized attitudes towards aging at work. Our aim is to develop agency analysis that involves both structural and individual components to fully illustrate the heterogeneity of older workers and their retirement decisions. By studying qualitative interview data via thematic content analysis and a modality-based agency framework, we found that agency manifests in various different ways in older employees’ work exit accounts and that the relationship between individual agency and structures is complex. We conclude that agency analysis of aging employees offers insights into the complexity of the retirement process and may thus inform us about how to help extend work careers.

Author Biographies

Hanna Kosonen, Tampere University

Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences

Katri Keskinen, Tampere University

Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences

Pirjo Nikander, Tampere University

Research Director

Kirsi Lumme-Sandt, Tampere University

University Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences


TS (2016) Towards a Two-Speed Finland? Longer Working Life, Retirement Pathways and Inequality. http://www.uta.fi/yky/2ts/en.html, Accessed 29 August 2019.

Berglund, T., Seldén, D., Halleröd, B. (2017) Factors affecting prolonged working life for the older workforce: the Swedish case, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 7(1): 19-36. doi: https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.v7i1.81396.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(2): 77-101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.

Bytheway, B. (2005) Ageism and age categorization, Journal of Social Issues 61: 2, 361-374. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2005.00410.x.

Eurofound (2019) Ageing workforce. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/topic/ageing-workforce. Accessed 1 March 2020.

Finnish Centre for Pensions (2019a) Old-age pension: Birth year determines retirement age. https://www.tyoelake.fi/en/different-pensions/old-age-pension-birth-year-determines-retirement-age/, Accessed 12 May 2020.

Finnish Centre for Pensions (2019b) Security if you are elderly and unemployed. https://www.tyoelake.fi/en/different-pensions/unemployment-security-for-the-elderly/, Accessed 26 August 2019.

Flick, U. (2014) An Introduction to Qualitative Research. 5th edition, Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore/Washington DC: Sage.

Giddens, A. (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Gilleard, C. & Higgs, P. (2000) Cultures of Ageing: Self, Citizen, and the Body, London: Pearson Education.

Hermansen, Å. & Midtsundstad, T. (2018) The effect of retaining bonuses on delaying early retirement – financial incentives revisited, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 8(1):43-64. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.v8i1.104848.

Higgs, P., Mein, G., Ferrie, J., Hyde, M. & Nazroo, J. (2003) Pathways to early retirement: Structure and agency in decision-making among British civil servants, Ageing & Society 23: 761–778. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X03001326.

Jolkkonen, A., Koistinen, P., Kurvinen, A. (2012) Reemployment of displaced workers – the case of a plant closing on a remote region in Finland, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 2(1): 81-100. doi: https://doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v2i1.2353.

Jyrkämä, J. (2008) Toimijuus, ikääntyminen ja arkielämä – hahmottelua teoreettis-metodologiseksi viitekehykseksi. [Agency, ageing and everyday life – delineating a theoretical-methodological framework. Translation by Author 1.] Gerontologia 4/2008: 190-203.

Kosonen, H. & Keskinen, K. (2019) A modality-based agency analysis of voluntary vs. forced work exit near retirement age. Graduate thesis, Tampere University. http://www.urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:tuni-201909133299, Accessed 3 September 2020.

Krekula, C. (2019) Time, precarisation and age normality: on internal job mobility among men in manual work, Ageing & Society 39: 2290–2307. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X1800137X.

Krekula, C. & Vickerstaff, S. (2019) Theoretical and conceptual issues in the extending working lives agenda. In Eds. Wendy Loretto, Sarah Vickerstaff, Áine Ní Léime, Debra Street and Clary Krekula. Gender, Ageing and Extended Working Life: Cross-National Perspectives. pp. 27-52. Policy Press, University of Bristol.

McGann, M. & Bowman, D. & Kimberley, H. & Biggs, S. (2016) 'Too Old to Work, Too Young to Retire': A Summary of the ARC Linkage Project: Understanding and Addressing Workforce Vulnerabilities in Midlife and Beyond 2012-2015. doi: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.1.4711.0806.

Mulders, J. A. and Henkens, K. (2019) Employers’ adjustment to longer working lives, Innovation in Aging 3(1): 1–10. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igy040.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2006). Ageing and employment policies: Live longer, work longer, Paris: OECD. http://www.oecd.org/employment/livelongerworklonger.htm, Accessed 1 March 2020.

Pakkala, H. (2014) Työttömyysputki – Puolesta ja vastaan diskursiivisen hallinnan näkökulmasta [The unemployment pathway – Pros and cons from the viewpoint of discursive control]. Pro Gradu thesis, University of Jyväskylä. http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:jyu-201409082749, Accessed 30 August 2019.

Perron, P., Collins, F. H., & Collins, F. (1989) Paris School Semiotics: Volume I: Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Pirhonen, J., & Pietilä, I. (2018) Active and non-active agents: residents’ agency in assisted living, Ageing and Society 38(1): 19-36. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X1600074X.

Pärnänen, A. (2012) Does age matter in HR decision making? Four types of age policies in Finnish work organizations, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 2 (3): 67-88. doi: https://doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v2i3.2364.

Solem, P. E., Syse, A., Furunes, T., Mykletun, R. J., de lange, A. H., Schaufeli, W. B., & Ilmarinen, J. (2016). To leave or not to leave: Retirement intentions and retirement behaviour, Ageing & Society 36(2): 259-281. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X14001135.

Tulle, E. (Ed.) (2004) Old Age and Agency, New York: Nova Science Publishers.

van Oorschot, W. & Jensen, P.H. (2009) Early retirement differences between Denmark and The Netherlands: A cross-national comparison of push and pull factors in two small European welfare states, Journal of Aging Studies 23(4): 267–278. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2008.01.003.

Vickerstaff, S. (2006) 'I'd rather keep running to the end and then jump off the cliff'. Retirement decisions: who decides? Journal of Social Policy 35(3): 455-427. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279406009871.

How to Cite
Kosonen, H., Keskinen, K., Nikander, P., & Lumme-Sandt, K. (2020). Employment Exits Near Retirement Age: An Agency-analysis. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.122227