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Retirement in Germany: Life, love and bridge employment

Men and women perceive differently the consequences of work after retirement on relationships
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With more time than ever to themselves, retirees’ relationships with their partners can certainly be expected to evolve. Hopefully, to improve. But as German society ages, more and more retirees are engaging in bridge employment, paid work between the retirement from full-time work and complete withdrawal from the labour market. The consequences of this trend on relationships after retirement are still unclear, but a new study from Andreas Mergenthaler and Volker Cihlar shows that, as ever, there is a gender dimension to the question.

Mergenthaler and Cihlar start by hypothesising that bridge employment could positively affect private relationships by helping retirees adjust to life after full-time work. Using the 2015 Transitions and Old Age Potential (TOP) survey, specifically the telephone interviews with formerly full-time employed 60- to 70-year-olds, the authors analysed self-ratings of relationship satisfaction and evolution since retirement. On the surface, they find that working after retirement did not in fact improve the quality of partnerships or, really, affect partnership satisfaction overall.

There were differences in perception between men and women, though. Specifically, women who worked after retirement were less likely than men to see improvements in partnership quality. Mergenthaler and Cihlar suggest that women may be more conflicted about their ongoing participation in the labour market, especially if their spouse is at home. It is phenomenon they describe as an enduring consequence of the male-breadwinner model and proof that a gender perspective will be needed for future research on the consequences of paid work and marital quality after retirement.


Original Paper: Mergenthaler, Andreas and Cihlar, Volker. (2017): Bridge Employment and Marital Quality in Germany – Different Implications for Men and Women? Ageing International.