Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Göteborg Papers in Economic History,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economic History

No 19: Pushed into Unemployment, Pulled into Retirement: Facing Old Age in Gothenburg, 1923-1943

Tobias Karlsson ()
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Tobias Karlsson: Department of Economy and Society, School of Business, Economics and Law, Postal: Göteborg University, Box 720, SE 40530 Göteborg, Sweden

Abstract: Along with rapid growth and improved standards of living, the first decades of the twentieth century saw the introduction of new technology and new ways to organize production. There are contrasting views on what impact these developments, often summarized as the Second Industrial Revolution, had on the situation of old men in the labour market. Some contemporary observers and modern-day historians have described how old men were crowded out of the labour force and pushed into an ‘industrial scrap heap’. Other researchers have maintained a more optimistic view on the opportunities of old men and argued that labour force withdrawal often was made possible by rising real earnings and savings. Since most of the research in the field has been based on cross-sectional data, the debate has relied on anecdotes, indirect evidence and assumptions.This paper uses data from a longitudinal panel of men living in the city of Gothenburg during the period 1923-1943. In contrast to most previous studies, this one takes up actual transitions into retirement and how such transitions were associated with access to resources. The main result is that a lack of resources was associated with a higher risk of retirement. This association appears even clearer when the sample is restricted to workingclass men and to the latter half of the period of investigation, when unemployment was lower and pension benefits higher. Thus, it would appear that transitions into retirement were most frequent when push and pull mechanisms were combined.

Keywords: labour markets; ageing; retirement; Sweden; inter-war period ISSN: 1653-

JEL-codes: J14; J26; N34; N94

28 pages, February 1, 2015

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