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Working life is a lengthy business, so take a few breaks along the way


We are living longer, staying healthy for longer and will need to work longer. According to IDA’s career advisers, this means that the amount of effort we put into our jobs will vary at different stages of our lives, and we don't necessarily need to focus on the traditional career ladder.

We are living longer and staying healthy for longer. This means that our working life will also be longer, giving us more time to pursue our careers or follow professional dreams.

“New structures offer a less uniform working life, with opportunities to move in and out of our careers depending on the stage of our lives,” says IDA’s career adviser, Morten Esmann.

“If you look at the traditional working life, you get an education, you work and then you retire. The long period in the middle – when you’re working – is seen as a continual development, forwards and up the career ladder – step by step. Things will be more diverse in the future. We’ll be hale and hearty for longer, and I believe that we’ll see more and more people varying the intensity of their work throughout their working lives.”

At the same time, qualification requirements have become more unpredictable. And this can make it hard to plan a career.
We need to be prepared for new technology, new demands and several short training courses throughout our working lives – and IDA’s career advisers are already noticing that people are ready and willing for this.
“We may want to withdraw altogether, for instance to retrain in something relevant or change track mid-life,” says Morten Esmann.

Strong seniors with job enthusiasm

A prospective study conducted by the DaneAge Association (Ældre Sagen) in 2015 shows that many of us want to keep on working. One in four of the working population would like to continue to work as long as possible, and one in three who have left the job market would have liked to stay on.

“For this new, strong generation of seniors, work is an important part of their identity. And many of us like structure in our day – something to get up for. It means a lot that what we do is useful and adds value for others,” says Anna Debel, economist at DaneAge and responsible for labour market issues.

Engineers belong to one of the professional groups with the greatest desire to work well into old age. Studies conducted by IDA some years ago confirm this. The employment rate for engineers was 19 percentage points higher than for 65 to 69-year-olds in general.

And our career advisers have noted that the enthusiasm for work continues well into the Third Age.
“Our members have a strong professional identity and are highly dedicated. They are specialists and they are attractive because they have this special expertise and they want to bring it into play. And one of the best ways to do this is to go to work. Employers are often also interested in holding onto them because they’re difficult to replace,” says Morten Esmann.

Cut back in times of stress

According to DaneAge’s Anna Debel, there could be a much broader age range at workplaces in the future, with people in their early twenties alongside seniors well into their eighties. To accommodate this, working life needs to be flexible.
“People in work are at various stages of their lives, and therefore they have different desires, needs and conditions. Some may want to increase or reduce their working hours or ambitions and, in the future, we may not need one straight career path – forwards and upwards,” says Anna Debel. She also points out that some people may wish to cut back during stressful periods, for instance when they have small children or ill parents, and step up the pace at other times.

Her points match the preferences of IDA’s members well. “Our career advisers certainly notice that members need breaks and changes in pace,” says Morten Esmann, and he gives some examples:

“We have the young man who – after only a few, short years on the job market – chooses to check out and go on the cycle trip of his life. Then, there is the woman in her thirties who is fit to drop due to a demanding full-time job, young children and mortgage payments. Or the woman in her fifties who would actually like to increase her workload and responsibility, or check out and retrain now that she has the energy for it.”

More than one career change in the future

“And when our working lives span so many years, and qualification requirements are constantly changing, it makes sense to change the pace,” says Morten Esmann.

“Our working lives are long, and we need to be able to cope – both physically and mentally. So I think we’ll find new, flexible ways of maintaining our skills at a suitable pace and provide opportunities for checking out and retraining along the way.”
For IDA’s members, this may mean moving into a different specialist field – a complete change of direction. We will see more than one career change in the future. This is one of the features of a long and flexible working life where there is time to start again mid-life and still have a long career.

Both age and the enthusiasm for work are increasing

  • The number of Danes who live beyond their 100th year has trebled over the past 25 years.
  • Today, 65-year-olds are better educated and healthier than their parents at the same age. For this reason, the number of Danes over the age of 65 who are continuing to work is also increasing.
  • One in four of the working population would prefer to continue to work for as long as possible.
  • The proportion of 60 to 64-year-olds in work has increased from a third in 2000 to a half in 2017.

Sources: DaneAge Association, University of Southern Denmark, Danish Ministry of Finance.