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January 17, 2005
Men and Women Favor Different Work-Life Programs

Work-life programs, such as eldercare-assistance and phased-retirement programs, can persuade workers to delay full retirement, but men and women respond differently to the programs, according to new analysis from Watson Wyatt, a consulting firm.

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The firm found that men respond more favorably to eldercare-assistance programs and women are more likely to take advantage of phased-retirement plans.

The analysis found that eldercare assistance programs--which help workers identify and evaluate services needed to care for elderly relatives--increase men's average retirement age by 8 months, versus just 1 month for women. Phased-retirement programs--which allow workers to transition into retirement by switching to a part-time or flexible work schedule--stretch women's average retirement age by 21 months, versus 5 months for men, according to the firm's study.

"Men tend to be 'remote' caregivers who provide financial support rather than personal care, so eldercare-assistance programs better meet their needs," says Valerie Paganelli, a senior retirement consultant at Watson Wyatt. "Women, on the other hand, are more likely than men to provide 'hands on' personal care services. The flexibility offered by phased retirement programs often can address women's caregiving needs more effectively than eldercare assistance programs can."

Watson Wyatt's analysis looked at the retirement patterns of 37,000 workers at large and medium-sized firms. Twenty-seven percent of surveyed employers currently offer eldercare assistance, while 16 percent offer a formal phased retirement program.

"Employees participate in phased retirement programs for the combination of leisure time, income, and enjoyment of work that is not offered by full-time retirement," says Paganelli. "But, with the forthcoming labor shortage, work-life programs will become increasingly important tools for employers looking to hang on to much-needed older workers. Those that can keep these workers will be in a much better competitive position."

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