Who has a harder time doing their job as they age into their sixties—blue collar or white collar workers? Not surprisingly, the answer is blue collar workers, according to a Center for Retirement Research analysis of age-related declines in job skills by occupation. But some white collar occupations are vulnerable to age-related skill declines. By determining the skills key to each occupation and identifying those known to decline with age, CRR researchers created a Susceptibility Index — a single number ranging from 0 to 100 that gauges the susceptibility of occupations to age-related skill decline. The higher the number, say the researchers, the harder it is for workers to do their job as they age.
Blue collar occupations have an average Susceptibility Index of 75. White collar occupations have an average Susceptibility Index of 32. But some white collar jobs have a much higher Susceptibility Index—those requiring fluid cognitive abilities, quick reaction times, and fine motor skills. Airline pilots and nurses, for example, have a higher Susceptibility Index than cooks or housecleaners, say the researchers.
Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers document a younger age at retirement for white collar workers in high Susceptibility Index occupations. "Thus, the notion that all white-collar workers can work longer or that all blue-collar workers cannot is too simplistic," the researchers conclude.
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, How Do Job Skills that Decline with Age Affect White-Collar Workers?