Research Group

Labor Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Detailed Description

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A key concern of population aging is the shrinking and graying of the workforce. The two developments are resulting in a decreasing worker-to-non-worker ratio, thus challenging the sustainability of labor markets and welfare systems across the developed world. Increasing the length of working life is often proposed as a potential solution to the challenges arising from population aging. Accordingly, policies aimed at increasing the duration of working life have been implemented in many countries in recent years. Despite the major research and policy focus on retirement ages, very little is known about the full length of working life, which determinants shape it, and which key societal and individual life-course factors are affected by increases or decreases in labor-force participation.

The MPIDR’s interdisciplinary Research Group Labor Demography analyzes how demographic change, the labor market, and economic factors interact in shaping the workforce of today and of the future. We study how demographic development affects the size and composition of the workforce from a demographic perspective, informed by sociological and economic theory and using demographic and statistical methods. We take a full life-course perspective, analyzing how the expansion of education has influenced entry into the labor force; how economic uncertainty, parental leave, and other sources of voluntary and involuntary inactivity during prime working ages influence population-level labor-force participation; and how changes in health at older ages and policy changes and shifts in economic opportunities influence how long people remain in the workforce.

We assess how labor-force participation across the life course is interrelated with the dynamics of health and well-being. This involves determining both the factors that contribute to and the outcomes of crucial labor-market transitions, such as retirement or entering the labor market, and the aspects of inequality that govern how well individuals are off. A particular focus is on vulnerable population sub-groups and intersections of risk factors that shed light on major inequalities in the labor market. We apply demographic concepts and methods to study the labor market. We use working life expectancy as a key indicator of working life trajectories and assess its trends and determinants from a comparative perspective. Studying how specific phases of the life course contribute to the duration of working trajectories; how they interact in cumulative (dis)advantage; and how other processes and domains, such as health and well-being, contribute will provide novel insights into working life.

We consider demographic perspectives on human capital formation, which is held to be a major determinant of labor-force participation and labor-market outcomes. Human capital is a concept that comprises many aspects considered central to demographic analyses, including fertility, health, and education, and in turn is both influenced by and shapes demographic processes, such as union formation.  We study demographic factors and processes that contribute to human capital formation.

Our data sets mostly come from, but are not restricted to, developed countries, and they include cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys as well as register data. Methodological innovation, in particular in the measurement of labor-force participation dynamics, is a key characteristic of the research conducted in the Labor Demography research group.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.