Productive activity patterns in early postretirement age in Germany

Andreas Mergenthaler, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Ines Sackreuther, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Ursula M. Staudinger, Columbia University

Background: Productive activities of the ‘young old’ might attenuate the challenges of demographic ageing in Germany. Generally, productive activities like paid work, volunteering or family support are analyzed as discrete behaviors even though evidence suggests that they are interdependent. Against this background, the study addressed the question (a) if productive activities among retirees in Germany form distinctive clusters, (b) whether the activities within the clusters are complementary or substitutive following role theory and (c) whether those clusters are characterized by distinctive combinations of individual, familial and economic resources. Data and method: Data from the survey “Transitions and Old Age Potential” (TOP) was used. The activities examined include paid work, formal and informal volunteering (helping), child care and caregiving both within and outside one’s own family. Hierarchical cluster analysis was employed to characterize patterns of productive activities. Canonical discriminant function coefficients for all clusters were reported to validate the cluster results. Multinomial logistic regression was used to determine differences in predictive value of individual, familial and economic variables across clusters. Results: The four clusters (Multiple Engagers, Volunteers, Family Helpers, and Family Disengagers) differed with regard to the composition and the intensity of productive activities. A complementary relation between paid work and volunteering was observed for the Multiple Engagers and to a lesser degree for the Volunteers while a substitutive relation of productive activities was typical for the Family Helpers. The Family Disengagers as the biggest cluster of the sample showed the lowest overall level of activities. We did not identify highly specific profiles of individual, familial and economic resources to be associated with cluster membership, except for the Volunteers. Thus, those resources seem to have an effect on individual productive activities but less on patterns of activities among retirees. Discussion: The study adds to the understanding of the complex relations between productive activities and their determinants in early postretirement in Germany. Our findings indicate that if an activity patterns is dominated by an obligatory activity such as caregiving for a family member there is a competitive relationship with other types of activities. Whereas, if no such dominating obligations exist, activities seem to be complementary rather than competitive. The evidence provides a basis for future research regarding retirement transitions and adjustment as well as the individual, familial and economic predictors of productive ageing.

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Presented in Poster Session 1