A study was undertaken in order to reveal the current differences between occupations in the Swedish labour market with respect to the risk of leaving working life prematurely. Using the Swedish national labour statistics, the following question was addressed: “If you keep working in the same occupation from age 35 onwards, how many years can you be expected to remain in working life before reaching the age of 65 years?”

The results show that work life lengths differ markedly between occupations; the differences between the highest and the lowest risk jobs exceed 4.5 years for men and women alike. Those working in blue collar jobs exit work earlier than those in white collar jobs. The results demonstrate a socioeconomic divide in exit patterns.

It is suggested that since those in blue collar jobs are the ones who would gain most economically from working into higher age, purely economic conditions do not explain the occupational differences in work life lengths. Current Swedish initiatives to increase work life participation among older people, focusing mainly on economic incentives, are likely to leave many in early exit groups behind.

Kadefors R, Nilsson K, Rylander L, Östergren PO, Albin M