The nature of paid work in the retirement years

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Ever more people are in paid work following the age of state pension availability, and yet the experience of working in this phase of the late career has been little studied. We interviewed a purposive sample of 25 Swedish people in their mid-late sixties and early seventies, many of whom were or had recently been working while claiming an old age pension. The data were analysed with constant comparative analysis in which we described and refined categories through the writing of analytic memos and diagramming. We observed that paid work took place within a particular material, normative and emotional landscape: a stable and secure pension income decommodifying these workers from the labour market, a social norm of a retired lifestyle and a looming sense of contraction of the future. This landscape made paid work in these years distinctive: characterized by immediate intrinsic rewards and processes of containing and reaffirming commitments to jobs. The oldest workers were able to assertively craft the temporal flexibility of their jobs in order to protect the autonomy and freedom that retirement represented and retain favoured job characteristics. Employed on short-term (hourly) contracts or self-employed, participants continually reassessed their decision to work. Participation in paid work in the retirement years is a distinctive second stage in the late career which blends the second and third ages.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAgeing and Society
Early online date8 Sep 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sep 2021


  • post-retirement work, encore career, job crafting