Men are significantly more likely to stay in the workforce after retirement than women
As the Baby Boomers grow older and more retire, it is important that employers keep their eyes open for opportunities to retain these knowledgeable and experienced employees.
New research shows that when it comes to continuing to work after retirement, male and female Boomers choose to remain in the workforce at very different rates and for very different reasons.
SIOP Members Yujie Zhan, Mo Wang, and Junqi Shi recently conducted a study looking at the different reasons men and women continue to work after retirement and if those reasons correspond to gender role theory. This theory examines different behaviors and roles that are attributed to a specific gender. For example, the idea that women are supposed to be the caregivers and men are the breadwinners for the family.
“My study has shown that men are significantly more likely to go back to the workforce after retirement than women,” explained Yujie Zhan, an assistant professor at Wilfred Laurier University. “And the reason they do is because status was found to be very important to males as well as to feel they are still useful.”
This research will be presented May 15-17, 2014 at the 29th Annual SIOP Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The researchers conducted their study by interviewing a random sample of 340 men and women in Beijing, China before they retired, right after they retired, and several months later. They were looking to measure three different factors that affected a person’s decision to remain in the workforce after retirement: status striving, communion striving, and generative striving.
“We originally thought that women would go back to the workforce because of communion striving, which is affiliation or feeling accepted by others,” Zhan said. “But that wasn’t the case and in fact, our findings showed that communion striving was an important reason for both men and women to go back to the workforce.”
Zhan recommends companies retain their workers after retirement by keeping in mind that both men and women come back for different reasons, but one of the most important reasons the researchers found was generativity, where retirees are in mentorship roles so they can pass down information to the next generation.
“Baby Boomers find this more meaningful, so it is effective if they are given a role where they feel recognized,” she said. “This can also help males looking for status roles because they are also being recognized and promoted for their work.”
The study found that when men went back to the workforce in much higher numbers than women, most desired a higher status, which also supports the gender roles theory.
“I think men are more likely to go back to work after retirement because they are more focused on work roles than women,” Zhan said. “But it could be for other reasons, such as financial pressures to support postretirement lives.”
Knowing this is important because employers need to know what to offer their Baby Boomer employees to keep them after retirement, she said.
“There are challenges that the labor force faces because of the future shortage of workers as Baby Boomers retire,” she said. “More senior workers are viewed as assets to the organizations because of the knowledge they have. Some organizations will try to retain older employees to make sure the company can function well. They are very important resources.”
Some employers may wonder if the findings would be the same in the United States. Zhan insists the results would still stand.
“I predict it should be consistent with both,” she said. “The gender role theory applies to both Eastern and Western cultures. I think the range might change, but the results would probably still be the same.”