A greater proportion of Israelis in their 60s are hard at work than they were a decade ago, and the rate far exceeds the average among developed countries, according to recently released data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Since 2001, the proportion of Israelis between 55 and 64 who were employed has risen from 48% to 61%.

Among those between 65 and 69, it has shot up from just 17% in 2001 to 29% last year. And more Israelis work full-time rather than part-time at more advanced ages than is the norm in other OECD countries.

So are older Israelis more industrious than their counterparts in the West, or are there other factors pushing them to keep on keeping on?

For Israel Doron, a lecturer at the University of Haifa's gerontology department, Israeli culture is at least partly to blame.

"The ethos that says that work is our life, and Zionism, which has sanctified work at any age, makes retirement into something difficult and complicated," said Doron. "While in countries like Spain and Greece, 50 is a legitimate age at which to retire and lie in the sun, in Israel, which is one of the countries with the highest life expectancies in the world, we are stricken with workaholism that doesn't go away with age."

"Culture is something that cannot be ignored," he said.

In Spain there has been a drop in the workforce participation rate for those over 60, while older Germans are working at greatly increased rates. "It's not for nothing that Germany is bailing out Greece and not the other way around," said Doron. "When you don't work for a period of time or retire very early, somebody ultimately pays the price."

Another factor in the high workplace participation of older Israelis is the relatively high retirement age, which for men was raised to 67 in 2005.

Doron also cited the pension issue. As people have become more aware of the importance of "retiring with dignity," there have been widespread reductions in pension benefits, and news coverage of problems with pension funds abounds. Over the past decade, he said, people have come to realize that as we live longer, the way to assure long-term financial security is by continuing to work longer.

The proportion of Israelis aged 60 or over who worked part-time stood at 19% of the workforce in 2001, and dropped to 15.5% a decade later.

Among OECD member countries as a whole, the trend has been in the reverse direction, from 17% in 2001 to 18% last year.

Unemployment trends among older Israelis have also gone in the opposite direction from the OECD average. In 2001, 6.3% of Israelis aged 56 to 64 were unemployed. The rate rose by one percentage point in 2005, but dropped to 4.2% last year.