Work and Leisure Preferences after Age 60


What is the workforce participation of sixty plus-year-olds? Is that participation the result of economic difficulty or lack of alternatives, or is it the result of work motivation? What are the preferences of this population with regard to work and leisure? All these questions are vital to planning the welfare and allowance system for sixty plus-year-olds, since in order to maximize that population’s wellbeing, the system must take individual preferences into account. Understanding those preferences will enable policymakers to understand and predict the influence of policy changes on individual welfare at old age. This study addresses the preferences of the elderly Jewish population in Israel regarding work after retirement age, with reference to individual wellbeing.


  1. Assess the workforce participation rate of sixty plus-year-olds
  2. Evaluate the degree to which their desire to work after retirement age is indeed met, that is, assess the degree to which unemployed retirees would like to work, as well as the degree to which employed individuals in retirement age would like to stop working.
  3. Determine the main factors affecting the likelihood of working after retirement age, among other things with reference to the COVID-19 crisis.


These questions were examined by a hybrid phone and online survey conducted by the Rotem Institute in September 2020 among a representative sample of the Jewish population of 60-85-year-olds in Israel. The September survey included 396 respondents: 214 women and 182 men. To enlarge the sample, an additional survey was conducted by Rotem in December 2020, with 400 respondents (236 women and 164 men). The following findings are based on the enlarged sample of 796 participants, according to weights of the general population in Israel. Due to a representativeness issue, most of the analyses were conducted only among respondents aged 65+ (i.e., not including respondents aged 60-65).

The findings are also based on a review of the literature on individual work preferences after retirement age, and on the effect of employment after retirement age on the individual and the national economy.

Literature Review Findings

  • In most countries surveyed, there was a prevalent phenomenon of involuntary retirement (the individual would have rather continued working), and it was more frequent than non-volitional employment (the individual would have rather retired). The percentage of individuals aged 65+ who had retired involuntarily was 32% on average across European countries in 2011. At the same time, 16% of the 65+-year-olds in those countries were interested in retiring but continued working due to the need for income.
  • In Israel, a moderate negative effect of continued employment after retirement age on the health of individuals aged 65-69 was found in a 2020 study, with no consequent effect on longevity. It was also found that there was a strong effect of continued employment at the ages of 78-85 on longevity, such that each additional year of employment reduced longevity by 9-12 months.

Survey Findings

The following findings are based on the survey of the enlarged sample; they refer to participants aged 65+, unless stated otherwise.

  • The main variables correlated with reduced likelihood of employment at age 60+ are: age, savings, apartment ownership, and marriage status. Conversely, the main variables correlated with increased likelihood of employment at this age are: good health and partner’s employment status (when the partner works, the likelihood that the individual will also be employed increases).
  • The rate of workforce participation (employed or seeking employment) among respondents after retirement age is 34%. In addition, 20% of all respondents after retirement age are not employed but are interested in working full- or part-time; 9% of them are interested only in part-time work.
  • About 10% of all respondents after retirement age who are still employed are not interested in working, but do so for various reasons (including economic).
  • The variables correlated with increased likelihood of persons aged 60+ to work are the same for men and women: the individual’s health status and the partner’s employment status. Moreover, the effect of income level is similar among men and women and is correlated with reduced likelihood of working.
  • At the same time, there are gender differences in some of the variables correlated with reduced probability of employment. Married men were less likely to work than were single men, as opposed to women, who were not affected by this factor. Apartment ownership by women was found to be correlated with reduced likelihood of employment.
  • Among respondents after retirement age, 40% are neither employed nor interested in employment, whereas 31% are employed and want to keep working. Moreover, 11% of respondents are not employed and would like to work part-time, and another 8% are not employed but would like to be employed.
  • When individual preferences are met, i.e. when an individual who works is interested in working and vice versa, both overall and economic satisfaction is higher.
  • COVID-19 reduced the desire to work among 20% of employed 65+-year-olds. Most (79%) of the respondents did not change their minds about wanting to go to work despite the risk, and 6% reported that the pandemic increased their desire to work. Nevertheless, about a third (31%) of the respondents reported having reduced their work hours following the onset of the pandemic.
  • There was nearly no difference in time devoted to volunteering between employed and unemployed respondents; it was also found that employed respondents devoted more time to helping their families.

Policy Recommendations

Based on the survey findings as well as on the theoretical and empirical findings of the literature review, we present four policy recommendations that can improve the situation of 60+-year-olds in Israel:

  1. Given the population variance in terms of employment after sixty and considering the variance in work preferences at these ages, we recommend considering a more flexible determination of the age of receiving old age allowance. In other words, allowing those who prefer it to receive a reduced allowance at an earlier age or an increased allowance at an older age than the current age of allowance entitlement.
  2. In discussions of possible increase of women’s retirement age, we recommend taking into due consideration the survey finding that nearly half (48%) of the female respondents above retirement age are either employed and want to continue working, or unemployed but would like to work, as well as the finding that retirement has no ill-effect on health in the early sixties. In light of these findings, we recommend that policymakers view positively the possibility of increasing women’s mandatory retirement age, which is currently lower than men’s mandatory retirement age.
  3. We recommend taking into consideration partial employment as part of the design of allowance and tax policies for 60+-year-olds, according to the needs of the economy and the employers.
  4. We recommend encouraging employers to offer jobs with flexible hours for this population.
Citing suggestion: Arad, A., & Reingewertz, Y. (2024). Work and Leisure Preferences after Age 60. RR-866-24. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)