Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
Article Critique: Why older Workers Work beyond the Retirement Age: A qualitative Study by Sewdas et al. (2017)
This essay intends to critique Sewdas et al.’s (2017) Why older Workers Work beyond the Retirement Age: A qualitative. Sewdas et al.’s (2017) article aimed at: (i) understanding reasons why people work beyond statutory retirement age from the viewpoint of aged workers, and (ii) exploring how the Study on Transitions in Employment, Ability and Motivation (STREAM)’s domains can be applied to working past retirement age. The researchers employed a qualitative research design. Interview and focus group data collection techniques were employed with people aged beyond 65 years who were either self-employed or continued to work in paid employments. Interview respondents were recruited into the study using STREAM cohort research, while focus groups were recruited from employment agencies and firms. The study established that the main reasons why people work beyond retirement age are financial benefits and everyday routines. Flexible work arrangements and good health were noted as crucial preconditions. The study established that the themes arising from the classification of preconditions and motives corresponded to the work characteristics, health, knowledge and skills, financial and social factors from the STREAM framework. Additionally, the study found out that purpose in life was another theme.
Keywords: Employment participation, bridge employment, ageing, retirement, qualitative research
Article Critique: Why older Workers Work beyond the Retirement Age: A qualitative Study by Sewdas et al. (2017)
According to Sewdas et al. (2017), in Western countries, the population is fast ageing as a result of lower rates of fertility, maturing baby boomers, and longer life expectancies, with studies projecting that the percentage of people aged 65+ years in Netherlands will attain 25% in 2040. In an attempt to minimize the effects of the ageing society upon Netherlands’ social security programs, the country’s government has been adopting reforms aimed at motivating aged employees to extend their working lives as reflected in the rise of the country’s statutory retirement age (Hofäcker and Naumann 2015). Retirees’ level of benefit relies upon domestic situation, and the policy warrants 70% of an employee’s net minimum wage (Virtanen et al. 2017). Matthijs and Visser (2011) and Oude (2019) argue that financial and health situations, work motivation, work-associated factors (like work enjoyment and fulfilling jobs), social factors (like having children/dependents to support and having an employed spouse) influence the motivation behind extension of retirement age. Evidently, the decision to extend work involvement is multifactorial driven and not a single factor driven.
Sewdas et al.’s (2017) study aims at (i) understanding reasons why people work beyond statutory retirement age from the viewpoint of aged workers, and (ii) exploring how the Study on Transitions in Employment, Ability and Motivation (STREAM)’s domains can be applied to working past retirement age. While populations in Western countries continue to age and many aged individuals are working beyond their retirement age, just a few studies have employed qualitative research design to assess why older employees prolong their working life when receiving a pension (Lichtenthaler and Fischbach 2016). Similarly, Sewdas et al. (2017) note that there are no theoretical framework or model available that take care of all the above mentioned factors that explain why aged employees extend their work involvement past retirement age. Lately, the STREAM has been proposed to comprise intricate factors that influence employment transition and work productivity (Anxo, Ericson and Herbert 2019). STREAM suggests that changeovers in employment are affected by factors in five distinct domains: job characteristics, health, financial, knowledge and skills, and social factors (Hess 2018). Nevertheless, since there is no theoretical framework for working past retirement age is inexistent, it is crucial to assess how and if the STREAM’s domains can be adapted to this phenomenon. Thus, the study is justified.
The research question(s) are explicitly stated in the article by Sewdas et al. (2017). While explicitly labelled research questions are central to certain fields, Guest, MacQueen and Namey (2012) note that other fields do not require them. In the article by Sewdas et al. (2017), there is no mention of “research question,” a terminology used to give unambiguous signboard for an article’s purpose and thus enhance the article’s clarity. However, against the tradition Sewdas et al. (2017) other strategies to highlight their research questions. According to Golafshani (2003), research questions can be stated in terms of goals, aims, or hypotheses, or still describing a study’s objective without necessarily referring to it as an objective (like “this paper investigates/examines X”). In Sewdas et al.’s (2017) article, research questions and purpose statement are used interchangeably as supported by Hofäcker and Naumann (2015). Therefore, the study’s research questions are to: (i) understand reasons why people work beyond statutory retirement age from the viewpoint of aged workers, and (ii) explore how the Study on Transitions in Employment, Ability and Motivation (STREAM)’s domains can be applied to working past retirement age.
As required, Sewdas et al.’s (2017) article observed a number of ethical issues. Before the commencement of interview, the interviewer did introduce themselves, informed the respondents regarding the study’s purpose, and assured the participants of confidentiality and anonymity. To ensure that the participants were not emotionally harmed for taking long, the interviewers ensured that the interview sessions lasted within 30 and 60 minutes. To the focus groups, written consent was obtained to allow the researchers record digitally the voices of the participants. Agreement of the focus group participants was also sought. Participation during the interview sessions and focus group meetings was voluntary and the respondents were at liberty to quit at any time.
Nevertheless, there is no mention of whether permission from local authorities and other authorities was sought. The researchers did not also assure the participants that the study’s findings would solely be used for the study and that the information will not be replicated, republished, or reproduced elsewhere.
The choice of interview and focus group techniques as the data collection tools was well thought of. Regarding the telephone semi-structured interview, the researcher provided room for flexibility to the interviews and gave them a response rate compared to mailed questions (Virtanen et al. 2017). The telephone interview also allows illiterate interviewees to answer questions. However, the interviewer lacked the opportunity of reading the interviewee’s non-verbal conducts (Matthijs and Visser 2011). Telephone interviews are costly and time consuming since it takes a lot of time to call each and every interviewee to get their responses (Oude 2019). Other challenges with the telephone interviews are that the respondent can misunderstand a question and respond wrongly, interviews can make unconscious mistakes, especially when the interviewee has some socially undesirable characteristics that they do not want to accept, and the respondent can deliberate lie, thus negatively affecting the quality of the research.
Similarly, the use of focus group technique was very instrumental in this study. As validator of the data that was gathered through interviews, focus group helped the researchers to surmount the limitations of the interview technique by allowing them an easy way to gauge participants’ non-verbal and verbal responses and helped them obtain valuable outcome (Polat et al. 2017). The data collection process is quickly with focus groups since a group of people are asked one question at a time and various responses gathered at once, thus it saves the researcher significant time (Lichtenthaler and Fischbach, 2016). However, focus group is prone to challenges such as lack of comprehensiveness on certain questions since some participants may be adamant to speak about sensitive topics and this may result in biasness (Anxo, Ericson and Herbert, 2019). Since just a fraction of participants is involved, the findings may not be representative of the whole target population. As such, the joint employment of the interview and focus group perfectly assisted in Sewdas et al.’s (2017) study since one technique covered the limitations of the other for better findings.
The study found a number of factors to be related with working post retirement. These included flexible working schedules, good health, having an employer who allows working past the retirement age, appreciation from clients or colleagues, a feeling of being responsible, skills and knowledge (like ability to pass on knowledge and skills, use of abilities, and learning new knowledge and skills), not desiring to sit at home, financial benefits (like higher standards of living and having to pay for some mortgage), and worries regarding their retirement life. The study’s findings are unequivocally comprehensive and insightful. The motivations for why people work way past their retirement were individually assessed to help determine their individual effects on people’s morale. The use of direct quotes strengthened the findings since the reader is allowed an opportunity into the mind of the interviewer’s mind. The itemization of the themes allows a reader to quickly glean the effect of each of factor on people’s motivation. Nonetheless, the researchers should have quantified the findings as opposed to just qualifying them using quotes. They should have at least compared the feeling of each interviewee and reported the percentage of people who may have seconded a particular factor as the reason for their post-retirement working. By quantifying the findings, the researchers would have supported their findings with figures, tables, charts or any other data presentation technique which would significantly role play in informing the understanding of the reader concerning the study.
The article’s discussion is informative in a number of ways. The discussion juxtaposes the findings of the study and other studies regarding a particular theme, justifying the reason for a particular finding. For instance, regarding health, Sewdas et al. (2017) found out that good health is a precondition for working post retirement age. Similarly, Hess’ (2018) found out that maintaining mental and physical health, and keeping physically active are necessary for one to work past retirement. Nonetheless, the comparison is limited since it is done with very few articles, making it difficult to rely upon.
Further, while the article discusses how each factor contributes to working past the retirement age, there are assumptions that employed, making the study’s findings to be little reliable and valid. For instance, the researchers suppose that most participants preferred part-time working as opposed to full-time working since employees want to have a gratifying balance between relaxation and work in their individual lives (Guest, MacQueen and Namey 2012). Such assumptions do not auger well with research when there is a plethora of studies that have been done on the issue that would have provided substantive prof for the preference of part-time over full-time work schedules.
The study’s findings were limited with regard to the STREAM approach that was employed. While the framework allowed the researchers to conduct targeted studies on factors that possibly influence working beyond retirement, there are other factors that are excluded by the framework, like purpose in life. The researchers, therefore, did good to slightly stretch past the framework to incorporate the purpose in life theme.
The researchers also convoluted the discussion section by including strengths and weaknesses of the study. In a well-organized work, the strengths and weaknesses of a paper should be covered under a separate heading. Nonetheless, the researchers did good to comprehensively discuss the limitations and strengths of their study.
The paper restates the objective of the study and summarizes the findings of the study as required. Similarly, the researchers state the significance of the study, noting that it would contribute to the development of work-associated interventions that would enhance extended working life for employees aged 65+ years. However, the conclusion does not provide gaps for further studies and his gives a false impression on the reliability and validity of the study.
Suggestions for Further Research
For more robust findings, a similar study could be conducted with the number of women and men participants kept at balance and that the participants should be of better health. In the study by Sewdas et al. (2017), the number of women was limited besides the fact that the respondents were less healthy. As opposed to solely relying on semi-structured telephone interviews and focused group, there is a need for employment of other data collection techniques in future studies. Lastly, further research is needed for larger sample sizes.
Questions about reliability emerge when analysing Sewdas et al.’s (2017) article. Like for any other qualitative research, the sample size is relatively small, making it difficult to transfer the study’s findings to other populations and situations. Nonetheless, the reliability of the study is enhanced by the fact that the study is credible; the study measures what it was intended for (Cypress 2017). The process that was used in conducting the study is also dependable, adding to the reliability of the study. Lastly, the reliability of the study is buttressed by the fact that its findings are confirmable by other studies. The findings of the study are supported by other studies, thus, it is reliable.
The study by Sewdas et al. (2017) meets a number of credibility measures. Through the use of focus group and interview techniques, the researchers were able to enhance the study’s response rate (Fitzpatrick 2019). Though the sample size is relatively small, it served the paper’s purpose. Secondary data sources were also used to back up the study, enhancing the paper’s richness in terms of facts. Similarly, the paper effectively measured its assertions by itemizing the element of the study and delving deep into details of the study (Rose and Johnson 2020). Lastly, while the sample size was relatively small, the findings can be generalized for an organization or a country.
Sewdas et al. (2017) tried to ensure the study’s findings were valid in various ways. Using the focus group, the researchers aimed at validating the findings by exploring explanations that were gathered using the interview technique. The researchers tested initial outcomes with the interviewed participants to help determine if what was gathered was correct. Additionally, the researchers sought alternative explanations for the findings, comparing their findings with what previous studies found. By excluding other factors, the researchers improved the strength of the study’s findings. Nonetheless, the quality of data that was gathered during the telephone and focus group sessions depended upon the type of moderator or interviewer that was involved (Moon 2019). Similarly, concerns ensue with the findings’ validity with respect to the sample size that was used. With the small sample size that
Battilana, Julie, and Michael Norris. “The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.” (2014).