Work (employment) and retirement

Work (employment) and retirement

LASA filenames:

Contact: Dorly Deeg


Older workers constitute an increasing proportion of the national workforce. In the years 2000, policies were implemented that restricted the possibilities to exit the labour market prior to the statutory retirement age. Since then, an increasing number of workers continue working up to the statutory retirement age, and an increasing percentage of people works beyond the statutory retirement age. In order to better observe this development, LASA-questions on work and retirement have been expanded gradually.

Measurement instruments in LASA

Employment and retirement data are obtained in the main interview in the LASA study. These questions are predominantly factual, but regarding several aspects, the motivation of respondents is asked. The motivational questions are derived from the studies by Proper and colleagues (2009) and by Hasselhorn and colleagues (2015). In the following, the questions are described.

Employment. Respondents are asked if they have a paid job at present, including one or more hours of work per week for short periods. At follow-up waves (C through E, F through H, I and J), the question is asked if the present job is the same as in the last interview. If not, the respondent is asked when they started working in the current job.

Job characteristics derived from standardized occupation codes. Respondents are asked to precisely indicate their occupation. The occupation indicated by the respondents is coded according to the standard classification of occupation (SBC; Standaard Beroepen Classificatie) from Statistics Netherlands. From baseline (1992-2003) through wave G (2008-2009), the SBC92 is used. From wave H (2011-2012) onwards, the SBC2010 is used. The SBC is a classification of occupations based on level and direction of necessary skills to perform the job and the combination of the most important work types (such as ‘consultancy’, ‘cure’ or ‘acting’). For instance, in the SBC92 cab driver is coded as ‘28205’ and accountant as ‘91503’. From the SBC, the following job characteristics are determined:

  • Occupational class: elementary occupations (11) – science managers (98)
  • Occupational skill-level: elementary (1) – scientific (5)
  • Main type of occupation: general (1) – management (18)
  • Occupational prestige: low (13) – high (87), according to a prestige scale developed by Sixma and Ultee (1984) (See also the LASA documentation on Socio-Economic Status).

Other job characteristics are asked directly and include date of starting job, hours of work, type of contract, supervision, and regularity. Respondents were asked in what month and year they started their current job and how many hours they currently work per week. In wave J, hours work per week were distinguished into contractual hours and hours actually worked. In all waves except wave 2B, respondents were asked to indicate the type of contract (e.g., steady job, temporary job with contract, self-employed), whether they supervised people (yes/no), how many people they supervised, and the regularity of their working hours (e.g., regular 9 to 5 hours or shift work including weekend).

Reasons for job change. In wave J, if respondents had a new job since the previous wave, they were asked if it was initiated by themselves or by their employer. Also, the reasons for the change were asked, e.g., better working hours or avoiding unemployment, and why they started in this particular job, e.g., enjoyable work or needing the income.

Work expectations. In wave 2B and from wave 3B onwards, respondents with paid work were asked if they expected that they would continue working up to the statutory retirement age. These respondents were also asked for their most important reason to continue working.

In wave J, three questions derived from the Work Ability Index (WAI, Ilmarinen 2009, Tuomi et al 1998) and one from the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire (WPAIQ, Reilly et al 1993) were included, asking respondents who had a paid job whether their work was mainly physical, mainly mental, or both (WAI); how they evaluated their work ability physically and mentally; and the extent to which they felt that health problems limited their productivity (WPAIQ). The three WAI-derived questions can be combined in a weighted score, see Appendix 1 for its calculation.

Sickness absence. In wave J, two questions concerning sickness absence were asked: how often and how many working days in total during the past 12 months. These questions were derived from the National Work Conditions Survey. Using the number of contractual hours worked, the percentage sickness absence in the past 12 months can be calculated.

Unemployment and disability pension. Respondents were asked whether they were registered at an unemployment office. In addition, respondents were asked whether or not they received a disability pension. If they answered affirmatively they were asked to indicate the extent to which they were unable to work because of their health, which is measured in percentages.

Longest-held job respondent and last job respondent, father and partner. In wave B, all respondents were asked if the current job was also the longest job, and if not, what their longest-held job was, when they stopped working, followed by the characteristics that were also asked for the current job. In waves 2B and 3B, respondents who currently had no paid job were asked what their last job was, when they stopped working, and in which occupation and how many hours weekly they worked.

In wave 2B, respondents were additionally asked what the last occupation of their father was.

In waves 2B and 3B, respondents were asked if their partner currently had a job, which occupation the partner had, and how many hours per week their partner worked weekly. If their partner did not have a paid job, respondents were asked if their partner had a paid job before, what the last job was and the month and year the partner stopped working. From wave 3B onwards, additional characteristics of the partner’s work status were asked, including the type of contract, supervision role, and regularity. If the partner’s work status had changed, it was asked when the partner started or stopped working. Furthermore, in wave 3B only, if the partner did not have paid work it was asked if they were registered in an unemployment office or received disability pension.

Questions about the employment of father and partner were also asked at NESTOR-LSN, the 1992 wave preceding the LASA-B wave in 1992/1993.

Retirement, retirement reason, voluntary retirement. Respondents who were younger than the statutory retirement age (up to 2013: 65 years; after that, a few months higher each year, see Appendix 2) were asked if they had (partially) retired early (no, yes partially, yes fully).

In wave G and from wave 3B onwards, if respondents were retired, they were asked whether the (early) retirement was voluntary (yes / not (completely) voluntary).

Retirement anticipations and expectations. If respondents were not fully retired, retirement anticipation was asked using the question ‘Are you anticipating in the things you do that you will retire within some time?’ (yes/no). At all waves except for waves 2B, if respondents answered yes, respondents were asked how they anticipated to retire within some time (e.g. by working fewer hours, volunteer work, more often taking a holiday). From wave I onwards, these questions were omitted. Instead, in wave J working respondents were asked if they considered retiring, and if so, if they would prefer partial retirement first before full retirement, or full retirement at once. For each preference, the question was asked up to what age they would like to continue working.

In waves 2B and J, working respondents were asked if they would retire if this would soon be possible with a financially reasonable settlement. If yes, the main reason was asked, e.g., work pressure too high or more leisure time; if no, also the main reason was asked, e.g., social contacts at work or maximize pension.

In waves 2B, 3B and J, if respondents were retired, they were asked what the reason for (partial) retirement was, and if they were not fully retired, they were asked for the most important reason for this.

In all waves, respondents were asked whether they think that the age at retirement should be fixed (agree, do not agree, don’t know/depends), and if so, at what age (see documentation on Social Participation).


LASAB016 / LASAC016 / LASAD016 / LASAE016 / LAS2B016 / LASAF016 / LASAG016 / LASAH016 / LAS3B016 / LASMB016 / LASAI016 / LASAJ016 / LASAK016 (main interview: in Dutch);
LASAI713 / LASAJ713 / LASAK713 (telephone interview with RESP: in Dutch)

Variable information

LASAB016 / LASAC016 / LASAD016 / LASAE016 / LAS2B016 / LASAF016 / LASAG016 / LASAH016 / LAS3B016 / LASMB016 / LASAI016 / LASAJ016 / LASAK016 (MB and K not available yet)
LASAI713 / LASAJ713 / LASAK713 (K not available yet)

Availability of information per wave


Employment status MaMaMaMaMaMaMaMaMaMaMa

¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort (not available yet);
K=not available yet

Ma=data collected in main interview;
Tr=data collected in telephone interview with respondent

Previous use in LASA

Studies using LASA data have examined the effect of employment and retirement on various factors. For instance, Van Tilburg (2003) found that among all men the number of work-related network members declined, but more strongly among retirees. However, between 1992 and 2002, the likelihood of having work-related relationships in the personal network after retirement increased, showing that retirement might have become less disruptive (Cozijnsen et al 2010). Bloem and colleagues (2008) found that the work-related relationships that do continue are not affected by a major life event such as a move.

Employment, furthermore, was shown to be associated with volunteer work. Broese van Groenou and Deeg (2010) showed that full-time employment restricts volunteer work, but not other forms of social participation, such as participation in religious organisations, having a large social network or participation in cultural and recreational activities. Part-time employment does not restrict social participation.

Rijs and colleagues (2012) found that health selection into retirement is most important in early (ages 55-58) and late (ages 61-64) retirees. However, retirement at modal age (ages 59-60), which in 1992-2002 was the approximate age at which most persons retired in the Netherlands, were more likely to have excellent or good self-perceived health after retirement. Rijs and colleagues (2015) also showed that older workers did not have more memory complaints than non-workers, but that memory complaints were associated with cognitive work demands. These researchers also showed that memory complaints were associated with actual decreases in memory in workers and non-workers (Rijs et al 2013).

Proper and colleagues (2009) studied reasons for continued employment and found that the most important reasons for persons aged 55 to 65 years are financial reasons and challenges at work.

Boot and colleagues (2014, 2016) studied predictors of early work exit in workers without and with a chronic disease. They found that most predictors were similar, but that workers with a disease were more likely to exit early when they had adverse work conditions – an association that was not seen in workers with no diseases.

Comparing three cohorts aged 55 and over (examined in 1993, 2003, and 2013), Van der Noordt and colleagues (2019a) showed that recent cohorts worked up to higher ages, with also more years with disability. Likewise, De Wind and colleagues (2018) showed that recent cohorts of workers with a chronic disease worked up to higher ages, with more years in less-than-good self-rated health. Van der Noordt and colleagues (2019b) also examined three health indicators in three successive worker cohorts, and the association of health with work demands. Cognitive health showed improvement over time, which was paralleled by an increase in cognitive work demands. No association over time was found for work demands with physical health or positive affect.

Educational differences in work exit and in pre- and post-retirement health were studied in a series of papers by De Breij and colleagues. Two of these papers concerned coordinated data analyses with cohorts in other European countries. It was concluded that lower educated workers have poorer health, both during working life and after work exit. The likelihood of early work exit is also greater in lower educated workers, in part due to poor health (de Breij et al 2020). The educational health inequalities are in part due to poor working conditions (de Breij et al 2019).


  1. Bloem, B.A., van Tilburg, T.G., & Thomése, G.C.F. (2008). Changes in older Dutch adults’ role networks after moving. Personal Relationships, 15, 465-478.
  2. Boot, C.R., Deeg, D.J., Abma, T., Rijs, K.J., van der Pas, S., van Tilburg, T.G., & van der Beek, A.J. (2014). Predictors of Having Paid Work in Older Workers With and Without Chronic Disease: A 3-Year Prospective Cohort Study. J Occup Rehabil, 24(3), 563-572.
  3. Boot, C.R., de Kruif, A.T., Shaw, W.S., van der Beek, A.J., Deeg, D.J., & Abma, T. (2016). Factors Important for Work Participation Among Older Workers with Depression, Cardiovascular Disease, and Osteoarthritis: A Mixed Method Study. J Occup Rehabil, 26(2), 160-172.
  4. Broese van Groenou, M. & Deeg, D.J.H. (2010). Formal and informal social participation of the ‘young-old’ in The Netherlands in 1992 and 2002. Ageing & Society, 30, 445-465.
  5. Cozijnsen, M.R., Stevens, N.L., & van Tilburg, T.G. (2010). Maintaining work-related personal ties following retirement. Personal Relationships, 17, 345-356.
  6. de Breij, S., Mäcken, J., Qvist, J.Y., Holman, D., Hess, M., Huisman, M., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2020). Educational differences in the influence of health on early work exit among older workers. Occup Environ Med Apr 8. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106253. [Epub ahead of print]
  7. de Breij, S., Qvist, J.Y., Holman, D., Mäcken, J., Seitsamo, J., Huisman, M., Deeg, & D.J.H. (2019). Educational inequalities in health after work exit: the role of work characteristics. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1515.
  8. de Wind, A., van der Noordt, M., Deeg, D.J.H., & Boot, C.R.L. (2018). Working life expectancy in good and poor selfperceived health among Dutch workers aged 55–65 years with a chronic disease over the period 1992–2016. Occup Environ Med, 75(11), 792-797.
  9. Hasselhorn, H.M., Ebener, M., & Müller, B.H. (2015). Determinanten der Erwerbsteilhabe im höheren Erwerbsalter – das „lidA‐Denkmodell zu Arbeit, Alter und Erwerbsteilhabe“. Zeitschrift für Sozialreform, 61(4), 403‐432.
  10. Ilmarinen, J. (2009). Work ability–a comprehensive concept for occupational health research and prevention. Scand J Work Environ Health, 35(1), 1-5.
  11. Proper, K.I., Deeg, D.J.H., & van der Beek, A. (2009). Challenges at work and financial rewards to stimulate longer workforce participation. Human Resources for Health, 7, 70, 1-13.
  12. Reilly, M., Zbrozek, A., & Dukes, E. (1993). The validity and reproducibility of a work productivity and activity impairment instrument. Pharmacoeconomics, 4, 353–365.
  13. Rijs, K.J., Comijs, H.C., van den Kommer, T.N., & Deeg, D.J. (2013). Do employed and not employed 55 to 64-year-olds’ memory complaints relate to memory performance? A longitudinal cohort study. Eur J Public Health, 23(6), 1013-1020.
  14. Rijs, K.J., Cozijnsen, R. & Deeg, D.J.H. (2012). The effect of retirement and age at retirement on self-perceived health after three years of follow-up in Dutch 55-64 year-olds. Ageing & Society, 32, 281-306.
  15. Rijs, K.J., van den Kommer, T.N., Comijs, H.C., & Deeg, D.J. (2015). Prevalence and incidence of memory complaints in employed compared to non-employed aged 55-64 years and the role of employment characteristics. PLoS One, 10(3), e0119192.
  16. Sixma, H. & Ultee, W.C. (1984). An occupational prestige scale for the Netherlands in the eighties. In Bakker, B.F.M, Dronkers, J., & Ganzeboom, H.B.G. (eds), Social Stratification and Mobility in the Netherlands. A Collection of Recent Contributions to the Study of Social Inequality in a Modern Western Society: Data, Trends and Comparisons. SISWO-publication 291: Amsterdam, 91-108.
  17. Tuomi, K., Ilmarinen, J., Jahkola, A., Katajarinne, L., & Tulkki, A. (1998). Work Ability Index. 2nd revised ed. Helsinki: Finnish Insitute of Occupational Health.
  18. van der Noordt, M., Hordijk, H.J., IJzelenberg, W., van Tilburg, T.G., van der Pas, S., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2019b). Trends in working conditions and health across three cohorts of older workers in 1993, 2003 and 2013: a cross-sequential study. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1376.
  19. van der Noordt, M., van der Pas, S., van Tilburg, T.G., van den Hout, A., Deeg, D.J.H. (2019a). Changes in working life expectancy with disability in the Netherlands, 1992–2016. Scand J Work Environ Health, 45(1), 73-80.
  20. van Tilburg, T.G. (2003). Consequences of men’s retirement for the continuation of work-related personal relationships. Ageing International, 28, 4, 345-358.

Date of last update: May 22, 2020