The job satisfaction of older workers

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Abstract

Older workers re-entering the workforce and those changing jobs are coming to play an increasingly important role in the labor force, especially as part-time workers. Yet the work orientation and job satisfaction of these workers has not been studied. Do ‘situational’ factors such as skill and pay matter for this subgroup of workers, and if so, which ones? If significant factors exist, can their effect be explained by the mediating influence of ‘dispositional’ factors like work values? This paper explores these questions in a study of 198 older workers who had begun new, mostly part-time jobs. Regression analysis shows that the intrinsic indicators for skill and autonomy have a positive effect on job satisfaction. No extrinsic factor was significantly related to satisfaction, indicating that these workers are more than ‘instrumentally’ oriented. This support for a ‘situational’ interpretation of the impact of work, especially intrinsic features, was sustained in analyses which incorporated work values. To the extent that the growing number of part-time jobs are relatively low-skilled, and to the extent that older workers in new jobs are influenced most by intrinsically rewarding work, there appears to be a growing mismatch between an occupational niche and those who are being sought to fill it.

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