A Case of Phased Retirement in Sweden

A Case of Phased Retirement in Sweden

Kristina Palm
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0948-6.ch018
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Gradual retirement has become more common, yet previous research has neglected to study managerial and organisational aspects of phased retirement. Based upon ten interviews, it was found that, when managed successfully, phased retirement is beneficial for both the individual and the organisation. The organisation can successfully transfer knowledge between employees, while the individuals enhance their well-being and obtain a better balance between work and leisure. However, in order for both the organisation and the individual to benefit from phased retirement, managerial action and planning is required.
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A traditional retirement scenario when individuals work full-time until a given age, and then stop working overnight (Kantarci & Van Soest, 2008), could not only be quite depressing for the individual; it could also result in an abrupt loss of knowledge for the organisation (Callanan & Greenhaus, 2008). This scenario fits the institutionalized life course with separate stages of labour force preparation, participation, and withdrawal (Kohli, 1986; 1986; Mayer & Shoepflin, 1989). During the last fifteen years, however, there has been a change in life courses towards more flexible and varying trajectories (Taylor, et al., 2015; Brückner & Meyer, 2005). It is not only a concern for the individual, but also for governments in many of the industrialized nations since the costs of the Post-war baby boomers retirement are increasing (van Solinge & Henkens, 2014; Loretto & Vickerstaff, 2015). Gradual retirement has become more common (Patrickson & Ranzijin, 2005), but it is still limited. The percentages of employers that offer gradual retirement differs between countries, but are around 1/3 in many western countries, e.g. Australia, Netherlands and the US (Taylor, et al., 2015; Bloemen, et al., 2016; Moen, et al., 2016).

Most of the studies on gradual retirement have been conducted from a macroeconomic perspective exploring if gradual retirement can help reduce some of the public costs of low labor force among elderly workers (e.g. Huber, et al., 2016). Research has also focused on the micro level about why people choose gradual retirement and the way in which individuals seem to handle it (e.g. Alcover, et al., 2014; Hermansen, 2015) or attitudes towards flexible retirement (Kaolkerinos, et al., 2015). Fewer studies focus on the business level, i.e. the meso-level, which is problematic since it is often managers and human resources that can change how work is organized (van Solinge & Henkens, 2014; Moen, et al., 2016). This chapter fill a research gap on how phased retirement form a meso-level perspective, it focuses on how gradual retirement systems are being managed in order to work efficiently from the perspective of knowledge retention, career possibilities and rationalisation effects.

The aim of this study was to explore the effects of and actions on a private agreement of phased retirement on a business and individual level. The Company entered into these agreements for several reasons:

  • To ensure knowledge transfer through a smooth transition into old-age retirement.

  • To achieve better health for its employees.

  • To enable career paths for younger employees.

  • To achieve rationalization effects.

  • To promote work incentives instead of costly early retirements.

This chapter is based on a single case interviewing human resource management (HRM), trade union representatives, employees (blue and white collar workers), and supervisors about the programme and their experiences with phased retirement. The interview findings discuss four of the five reasons it was started; knowledge transfer; better health for the employees; enabling career paths for younger employees; and rationalization effects.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gradual Retirement: An overall definition that explains that the employee do not stop working “overnight”, but gradually work less hours or/and with less demanding tasks in the last years of employment.

Job Satisfaction: A feeling of being satisfied with one’s own work, it could be aspects like having enough challenging work tasks or a supportive manager.

Knowledge Retention: A definition meaning keeping the knowledge within an organisation although people carrying that knowledge are leaving.

Work-Life Balance: A definition explaining the integration between work and lifestyle (non-work life) and the effect it may have on health.

Blue-Collar Work: Work where the salary earners are organised within the LO (The Swedish Trade Union Confederation). Work is often process-oriented with technological systems and standardised work routines based upon specialisation.

White-Collar Work: Work where the salary earners are either organised or have the possibility to organise within the TCO (The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees). Work is rather intellectual and creative, and it can also include managerial positions.

Phased Retirement: The working hours are reduced within the same job , and at the same employer.

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