Time takes us all? A two-wave observational study of age and time effects on sustainable employability

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Objectives Various cognitive and physical abilities decline with age. Consequently, sustainable employability research has focused on the labor market participation of older employees. However, it remains unclear whether age actually affects employees' work and labor-market functioning. A major complicating factor is that age effects can be distorted by time effects. That is, changes over time may not be due to aging but to some structural difference between the times of measurement. The present article aims to provide clarity by estimating age effects on sustainable employability while controlling for potential time effects. Methods Based on two-wave survey data from a sample of 2672 employees (ages 35‒65 years) multilevel regressions are estimated to analyze the effects of age and time on sustainable employability. Here, sustainable employability is operationalized as a formative construct consisting of nine dimensions, each capturing a different facet of an individual's ability to function at work and in the labor market. Results The analyses reveal that age has small effects on only two dimensions (employability and perceived health) while time affects three dimensions (fatigue, job performance, and skill gap) of sustainable employability. Moreover, for all dimensions of sustainable employability most variance exists between (61.43-84.96%) rather than within (15.04-38.57%) subjects. Conclusions These findings suggest that the process of aging has a limited effect on working individuals' capacities to function in their job and the labor market. Consequently, the focus on age in the context of sustainable employability policies and research may require reconsideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work Environment & Health
Issue number5
Early online date3 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Journal Article
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Aging
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Male
  • Aged
  • Time
  • Cohort Studies
  • Work Performance

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