Navigating conflicting logics: Early or late(r) retirement in the German teaching profession?

Heike Schröder, Katharina Chudzikowski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We explore how German school teachers reflect on their ability to shape their late careers as conditioned by conflicting institutional arrangements related to early retirement and extended working life. While national policy-makers have abolished early retirement and legislation prohibits work-related discrimination, persistent age stereotypes still negatively influence older teachers’ career options. Therefore, while some policies enable and/or force individuals to extend their working lives, others prevent them from doing so. Building on the discussion of structure and agency, we explore how individuals use agency to navigate conflicting institutional forces that affect their late employment careers and work-retirement transitions.

Using a case study approach and drawing on qualitative interview data, we focus on the biographical experiences of ten school teachers (aged 50plus) and their late careers and work-retirement transitions. We contextualise these accounts with 20 expert interviews conducted with School District- and school-level stakeholders. The data is analysed using thematic analysis and a life course perspective.

Findings indicate that teachers’ ability to extend their working lives was simultaneously reinforced and counteracted by various interacting factors including working conditions, professional and work ethic, stress and health, old-age stereotypes, family life, gender norms and financial issues. How individuals were able to navigate these, and to exert agency, depended on experience with career-and job-related proactivity and professional identity as shaped over time. We have identified in our data four narratives that shed light on the circumstances under which individuals employ agency: Proactive career creating, Reactive career planning, Proactive career negotiation, and Career denial.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication British Society of Gerontology: Work and Retirement Special Interest Group symposium
Publication statusPublished - 07 Sept 2020


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