Job satisfaction and quality run high among working pensioners

Two new studies led by researchers at Stockholm University found that Swedish workers in their sixties became more satisfied with their jobs as they aged.

Older workers in their sixties reported that their working conditions are improving. They reported having more control over their work time and that their jobs had become less dangerous, strenuous and unpleasant. Not only did older workers find that their jobs required less effort as they aged, their jobs also became more rewarding and satisfying.

Dr Loretta Platts. Photo: Department of Psychology/HD
Dr Loretta Platts. Photo: Department of Psychology/HD

The studies were headed by Dr Lawrence Sacco and Dr Loretta Platts and consisted of both quantitative and qualitative research. Sacco, Platts, and their colleagues found that working pensioners described their jobs becoming more flexible and rewarding and less stressful.

Improvements in psychosocial working conditions and job satisfaction were accounted for by reductions in working hours and by switching to new roles, such as self-employment or temporary work.


Financial security a key factor

Older workers who become eligible for an old-age pension may have stronger bargaining power when it comes to navigating their working lives. “The financial security provided by old-age pensions is likely a key factor allowing older workers to seek better quality jobs,” said Lawrence Sacco, researcher at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

Dr Lawrence Sacco. Photo: Department of Psychology/HD
Dr Lawrence Sacco. Photo: Department of Psychology/HD

In a parallel interview study of Swedish pensioners aged from their mid-sixties to their mid-seventies, working pensioners described how they enjoyed their jobs and often found them fulfilling. Nevertheless working pensioners kept a tight rein on their employers, limiting their commitment to paid work to preserve time for other activities. Shortened working hours also provided more recovery time and allowed working pensioners to side-step conflicts and unwanted responsibilities.

“We found that working pensioners had a distinctive relationship to their jobs. Although they appreciated their jobs, they made sure to protect themselves from the downsides of being in work,” said Loretta Platts, associate professor at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

Working pensioners often had a greatly improved work-life balance, freeing up time and energy for other activities that they valued.

“Once people receive their pension, paid work becomes an optional activity. Mostly people were self-employed or employed on hourly contracts. It was straightforward for them to stop working if they wanted to, but they were happy to continue for a little while longer, not least because they were enjoying their work,” said Loretta Platts.

Background information to the quantitative research

  • The researchers studied around 2000 Swedish workers in their sixties taking part in the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH).
  • The SLOSH data were collected by postal questionnaires every second year during 2006–2018.
  • The researchers ran analyses comparing workers’ reported job quality with their reports from two years before to see if any improvements had taken place.
  • Improvements were observed in physical occupational exposures (dangerous, strenuous or unpleasant work), psychosocial occupational exposures (job strain, effort-reward imbalance and control over working time) and job satisfaction.

Background information to the interview study

  • The researchers interviewed 25 recently retired and working pensioners, mostly drawn from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH).
  • The participants lived in many different Swedish regions.
  • The researchers included participants with a wide variety of educational backgrounds and included some participants who were born outside Sweden.


  • Sacco, L. B., Cahill, K. E., Westerlund, H., & Platts, L. G. (2021). Changes in job quality as people work beyond pensionable age in Sweden. Work, Aging and Retirement, in press. doi: 10.1093/workar/waab021
  • Platts, L. G., Ignatowicz, A., Westerlund, H., & Rasoal, D. (2021). The nature of paid work in the retirement years. Ageing & Society, in press. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X21001136