EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

Abstracts from The Employment Dilemma and the Future of Work

10. Work in the life-cycle from 18 to 80

10.1 Work intensity in the life-cycle from 18 to 80

To identify the current work intensity in the life cycle, we have to examine the participation rates of people in the monetised labour market. This is the ratio of active population, i.e. all persons of either sex who furnish the supply of remunerated labour for the production of goods and services regardless of their employment status, in comparison to the total number of people in a given age group. The higher the proportion of the active population in a specific age group, the higher their work intensity. This intensity is subject to legal framework, social influences and individual decisions.

Figure 2: Active Population Chart
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Source: ILO, 1995.

As we can see, there is a sharp increase in economic activity for people between 15 and 24 years of age as a result of the end of secondary or higher education. Before the age of 15 there is usually only negligible activity in the labour market — at least in industrialised countries. This changes when mandatory school attendance terminates and individuals can join the work force according to their personal inclinations and needs.
Afterwards, the work intensity is more or less stable over a period of several decades. For men, the proportion of economically active people typically reaches over 90%, while that of women often tends to be lower. Depending on the integration of women into the labour force, in various countries the activity level only rarely exceeds 75%. During this time, the participation rates of women exhibit a particular but very characteristic drop between the age of 30 and 39. An obvious explanation for this phenomenon is the preference or necessity of women this age to spend their time dedicated to domestic and/or child-caring activities.
At the end of the second phase we can observe that the proportion of people who provide labour supply diminishes gradually. It is the moment when retirement becomes a major factor in the decision on working time and economic activity. Afterwards, more and more people drop out from the labour market opting to devote more time to other activities than to remunerated work.

10.2 Education and Work in the Course of the New Life Cycle

If we accept the idea that the work intensity of the population is correlated to the individual preference of personal work intensity, we might have a curve that is similar to the one denominated ‘active population’ in the following chart. It is the simplification of the depicted activity curves of the respective nations in so far as it displays a more abrupt start of working intensity after the end of education and has to be regarded as being qualitative rather than quantitative in nature.
Here we will now propose an alternative system for the distribution of work and work intensity that seems better suited to the individual’s needs throughout different stages of economic activity. During the first phase of education, there should be an integration of part-time work into the tertiary education system on an official increased level. This would enhance the possibilities for the younger to gain working experience while still studying without necessarily submitting them to the stress of attaining an unsuited job besides being enrolled in full-time education. At the same time this would relieve them of at least part of their financial problems. The integration of part-time work into the education system would also foster the connections between theory and practice and provide closer links between institutions of higher education and the rest of the economy.
During the second phase, there would be room for changes of work time according to personal needs. Educating parents who might wish to spend more time with their family could opt for fewer hours while their children are still young and increase their work time as their children grow up and depend less and less on them. Other employees might want to embark on additional projects not strictly related to their job and prefer to work less during a certain time. In general, this concept of flexible quantities would lead to a much greater variety of how much people work during their life-cycle than was traditional in the past.
This second stage will gradually phase out instead of suddenly ending. There will be more possibilities for the older to gradually retire by reducing their work-load according to their individual preferences and needs. at the age of 60 people still have a 20-year life expectancy and their gradual retirement could be a beneficial complement to the established three pillars of the social security system. It would also help to reduce the demographic stress on pay-as-you-go (or big scale capital accumulation) pension system in ageing societies. Voluntary work, already present to a lesser extent, might increase, in part as a non-monetised substitute of previous remunerated work since many older people like to stay active without necessarily the need or the wish for monetary compensation.
During all three phases, education or training and retraining will be present, albeit to different degrees. As we have previously explained, constant education is necessary to stay in the labour market and to meet the demands of an ever more complex and ever faster changing society.

Figure 3: New Work Intensity Diagram
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