Nearly two thirds of Israeli pensioners would be interested in continuing to do the same work they did before retirement if given the opportunity, according to a survey by the Ministry for Senior Citizens.
Men were more interested in this than women, with 69% of all older males saying they would like to continue to work, versus 59% of women.
Two thirds of the men who were approaching retirement age - meaning men aged 65 to 66 - also said they would like to continue to work.
The majority of respondents oppose the current retirement law, which allows an employer to force an employee to retire once he reaches the retirement age, which is 62 for women and 67 for men. In addition, more than 90% said it would be wrong to force an employee to retire early, but that the employer should allow the employee to retire if the employee so desires.
The survey, conducted by the Dialog polling firm, was intended to examine the attitude and behavior of Israelis before and after retirement age. Dialog interviewed 600 people, comprising two groups: 200 pre-retirement, and 400 retirees aged 62 and over.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, only 13.2% of those aged 65 and over are working, versus 80% of those aged 25-64. The Dialog survey found somewhat more encouraging data: 19% of those who had passed retirement age were still working - 21% of the men and 16% of the women.
Nevertheless, even among those near retirement age, the survey found that the majority (51% ) do not work, which attests to the precarious labor market situation of those aged 50-60. The Central Bureau of Statistics data show that the work force participation rate among the 55-59 group is much higher - 78% for men and 63% for women.
The survey also found that of those who continue to work after retirement age, half work in a different workplace than they did previously: Only 56% of men work in the same location, and 45% of women. One reason is a desire to work less intensely than previously, which necessitates moving to a different workplace.
The survey found that of those past retirement age who wished to continue working, 73% would like to work part-time - 84% of women and 63% of men. Among those in the pre-retirement age group who wished to continue working, 64% would like to continue working part-time - 65% of women and 63% of men.
The survey results indicate not only a desire, but also a need among those 50 and over to continue working. This need will only grow, given the continuing increase in life expectancy, which implies that workers need to save more for retirement. But the Israeli labor market has not adjusted to these trends. The hiring process discriminates against older workers, and companies rarely keep those who have passed retirement age.
Accordingly, several academics, including Prof. Moshe Gavish of the Technion's Faculty of Medicine, recently petitioned the High Court of Justice to demand that the retirement-age law be changed. They are also lobbying the Knesset to cancel the retirement age.
In light of this, the cabinet decided this week - at the initiative of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Deputy Minister for Senior Citizens Lea Nass - to establish an interministerial committee to formulate a government program for integrating older people and senior citizens into the labor market. This committee must report on its progress within four months.
The committee will be co-chaired by Aharon Azoulay, director general of the Ministry for Senior Citizens, and Michal Zuk, employment commissioner at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment. Its other members will include representatives of government agencies, academia and the nonprofit sector, as well as Prof. Eugene Kandel, who heads the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office.
Zuk said that those 50 and over are one of the groups - along with Arab women, the ultra-Orthodox and the disabled - that suffer from labor market exclusion, and it is important to address the difficulties they face. This will not only benefit the individuals but also the state, as people will spend more years saving for retirement.
She also said that, given the demographic trends, it will be necessary to raise the retirement age. But so far, attempts to do so have failed because of opposition from women's organizations.
"An older person who is thrown out of the labor market will find it difficult to reintegrate, and he lands on the state's shoulders for support," Zuk said. "In the coming months we will examine the difficulties and barriers and propose solutions. I am prepared to address everything. One can consider many approaches: incentives for employers; making employers aware of the advantages in hiring older workers; expanding the vocational training system, etc."
Simhon added: "Older people are able and willing to continue to work, to contribute to the industry in which they are employed, and to earn a livelihood. It is important that the interministerial committee work effectively on its assignment to promote the employment of older people. The committee must also study what the rest of the world does."