Older workers are becoming increasingly important in the European labor market. Previous research on work preferences suggests that older workers would like to reduce working hours. A new IZA Discussion Paper by David Bell and Alasdair Rutherford finds that this is not true for all them. Using data from the United Kingdom, the authors show that there are significant numbers of older workers who would prefer to increase hours. The share of these workers has been rising, particularly since the start of the recession in 2008. The analysis shows that those who want to work fewer hours are more likely to retire early, while those who want more hours delay their retirement compared to otherwise similar workers.
The findings have important implications for employment policy. They indicate that there might be opportunities within the group of older workers to better match individual working hour preferences by providing some form of exchange between those who wish to work more hours and those who prefer fewer hours. The authors argue that if the present mismatch is due to a malfunctioning of the labor market, government intervention to overcome the mismatch might be justified. Yet, for the success of such a policy, the labor market would have to be sufficiently flexible.