Recent decades have seen significant advances in medicine that have substantially increased life expectancies and improved the quality of health in all age groups in Israel. Due to the gradual rise in health levels and retirement ages, the share of older adults participating in the labor market is also trending upward.
This study looks at the effect of employment on happiness levels among Israelis ages 60‒80. In particular, we examine the effects of employment variables — work hours and retirement and, to a lesser degree, volunteer activity (which is actually unpaid employment) — and of sociodemographic variables on happiness levels.
The study was based on two datasets: the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which includes data on social status, health, and employment between 2004 and 2016, and a database compiled by the researchers especially for the current study, using questionnaires aimed at tracing the effect of employment and work hours on happiness levels in 2019. Analysis of the questionnaires included consideration of the reasons for deciding whether or not to retire, work hour changes, and participant opinions about what Israel’s retirement policy should be. The study focuses on individuals in the 60‒80 age group, solely within Israel’s non-Haredi Jewish population.
Happiness levels and employment variables
- The effect on happiness levels depends primarily on the type of work. Employment in stimulating fields (jobs in areas such as development, management, and research that require cognitive skills), as well as volunteer activity, were found to have a significant and positive effect on happiness levels.
- By contrast, employment in high-stress jobs (jobs where there is constant pressure in terms of workload, multitasking, and deadlines) has a clear negative effect.
- A large number of work hours in a stimulating job raises satisfaction levels.
- The opposite is also the case: long hours at a stressful job negatively affect happiness levels.
Happiness levels sociodemographic variables
- The highest happiness levels were found among those who are married or in a relationship (whether employed or not), and the levels rise with the number of children.
- The lowest happiness levels were found among employed single individuals and among non-employed divorced people.
- Happiness rises with income and health levels.
- The employment variable’s effect on women’s happiness levels is not statistically significant.
- Likewise, no significant effect on happiness levels was found for employment in physically demanding jobs.
Retirement age and the decision to retire or to continue working
- The average retirement age is 61 for men and 59 for women, although survey respondents expressed their intention to retire at older ages (70 for men and 67 for women). The study also found no opposition to raising the retirement age.
- The main reason for continuing to work after 60 is the desire to increase one’s income. Other reasons are: pleasure in one’s work, the desire to preserve one’s human capital and work skills, and the social factor — relationships with co-workers or clients. The data also show that over half of those who retire do so voluntarily, and that they have, on average, higher satisfaction levels.
- The decision to retire is driven by several factors: health reasons lower the retirement age to a significant degree, as do expectations of low pay and problems finding work in one’s field. Satisfaction with one’s current income is also a factor that lowers the retirement age.
Our research indicates that health status is a major factor directly affecting both happiness and retirement age. Despite an overall improvement in healthcare and rising levels of physical and mental health awareness, government action in the healthcare and preventive medicine fields is justified. Regarding early retirement, in many cases, the decision stems from the employment problems faced by older adults, and from the fact that people tend to seek employment in their areas of expertise and at the wage levels that prevail in those fields. It would be appropriate to stiffen enforcement of the