Productive Ageing in Europe: The importance of waged work, family work and volunteering

In the face of an increasing percentage of elderly in the population of Western industrial societies the idea of “productive ageing” in the sense of an involvement of the elderly in productive activities has gained importance in the last years. This involves on the one hand their longer participation in the labour market, on the other hand, it includes various other forms of participation, such as volunteering, caring for their peers or for their grandchildren and other informal productive activities.

The aim of the project is to analyze which institutional circumstances enable the participation of the elderly in Europe in different forms of productive activities. By productive ageing we understand the participation of people aged between 50 and 75 to be in waged work as well as in unpaid activities, such as family work and volunteering. The institutional circumstances for this sort of participation are very different in various European countries: What differs in the countries is not only the legal retirement age but also the availability of a generous old age security, which prevents poverty, the availability of long-term care facilities for the elderly as well as the availability of public child care for (grand-)children.

In order to answer the research question about the influence of institutional conditions on specific forms of productive ageing, the project takes two levels of analysis into consideration: The focus lies on the analysis of individual participation in the aforementioned forms of productive ageing in different European countries on the basis of microdata (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, SHARE). In addition to this central project goal, macro variables are generated on the basis of theoretical models of welfare state typologies, which are deemed to operationalize the influence of institutional circumstances on life courses and are introduced as explanatory variables into the micromodels.

On both levels of analysis, four comprehensive perspectives are relevant: (a) the multi-dimensionality of life-courses, i.e. the analysis of the interdependency between different forms of productive ageing, (b) a social structural perspective which analyses the participation of people from different social backgrounds in different forms of productive activities, (c) a gender comparison which accounts for differences in the participation of men and women as well as (d) a couple perspective which investigates the influence of partners on the participation in different forms of productive ageing of the elderly.

Funding agency: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Funding period:  2014-2019

Project team member: Dr. Ariane Bertogg


Bertogg, Ariane, Strauß, Susanne, Vandecasteele, Leen (2020): Linked lives, linked retirement? Relative income differences within couples and gendered retirement decisions in Europe, in: Advances in Life Course Research, online first:, doi:

Bertogg, Ariane, Nazio,Tiziana, Strauß, Susanne (2020): Work–family balance in the second half of life: Caregivers' decisions regarding retirement and working time reduction in Europe, in: Social Policy & Administration, 1–16.

Strauß, Susanne (2019). Multiple engagement: The relationship between informal care-giving and formal volunteering among Europe's 50 population. Ageing and Society, 1-25. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X19001764

Bertogg, Ariane/Strauß, Susanne (2018): Spousal care-giving arrangements in Europe. The role of gender, socio-economic status and the welfare state, in: Ageing & Society, online first doi: 10.1017/S0144686X18001320

Strauß, Susanne/Trommer Kathrin (2017): Productive ageing regimes in Europe: welfare state typologies explaining elderly Europeans' participation in paid and unpaid work. Journal of Population Ageing, online first doi: 10.1007/s12062-017-9184-4
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