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The influence of health on longer working lives

Despite Australians living longer than ever before, the ageing of the population means that the burden of chronic illness in society is increasing.

To cope with the fiscal challenges of an ageing population, Federal Governments have for many years encouraged longer working lives to assist people’s self-sufficiency in retirement. However many people with a chronic illness are unable to participate in paid employment. 

This study, authored by Deborah Schofield of University of Sydney and colleagues, uses longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) project as well as data from the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers to investigate the employment participation of people with a chronic illness.

In particular, they focus on people aged 65 years and above, which is beyond the traditional retirement age but when people increasingly face chronic illnesses. They find that for all of the most common chronic illnesses - arthritis and related disorders, hypertension, back problems, diabetes and heart disease – people are less likely to be working than those with no chronic illness.

Key findings

Some of the findings confirmed our expectations:

People aged between 65 and 74 with a chronic health condition were less likely to be employed than those without a chronic health condition Of those with chronic health conditions, men aged between 65 and 69 were the most likely to be employed A high proportion of those working with a chronic health condition were earning less than $500 per week.

Other findings were more surprising:

Household net worth of those working was similar for those with or without a chronic health condition Many of those aged between 65 and 74 in poor health who were employed thought they would never be able to retire Having a university qualification did not influence the chances of employment The proportion of people (between 65 and 74) in full-time employment with chronic health conditions was similar for people without health conditions.

This report is published by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre following on from another study by the same authors A widening gap: The benefits of delaying retirement released in November 2013.

Download the full report below.

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