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Job hopping and age: Unpacking so-called findings

by on February 8, 2017

I don’t think we’ve looked at this issue on the blog before. But the BBC News website featured this item on job hopping earlier this month. Citing a a survey by insurance company Liverpool Victoria,  it reports that a UK worker will now change employer on average every five years. There’s been discussion for some time about how the ‘job for life’ is disappearing (if not already disappeared). But what struck me in the BBC report was the assertion that ‘the most influential element driving how often you change jobs is age’. Where’s the evidence for that?

As the article makes clear, this statement is not based on any UK data, though it features Dr Clare Gerada as an example of an older worker who has worked for the NHS for 40 years. I don’t think this is a particularly compelling example as most doctors will work for the NHS for their entire career unless they move into private practice or abroad.

The BBC article also cites recent statistics from the US, where the average tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times the 2.8 years of workers aged 25 to 34. And this prompted a follow-up article on the Benefits Pro website on the impact this might have on younger workers’ retirement savings schemes. This is partly a concern due to changes in how US companies make contribution payments in occupational pension schemes. And there may be issues – particularly following automatic enrolment – around portability of pension schemes in the UK.

The BBC article also suggests some ‘generational’ differences (oh no!) with regard to what younger and older workers want from their work. It mentions ‘several surveys’ that suggest this but we know that these are often methodologically flawed (for example, only asking people of one ‘generation’ what they want and then presenting the finding as a ‘difference’). Happily we think the tide is turning in the academic literature with regard to this type of ‘finding’.

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