Eurofound’s Reference Framework: Sustainable work over the life course in the EU

  • Franz Eiffe Eurofound


Demographic change has triggered policy debates and responses across Europe. The need of keeping workers in employment longer is a consequence that requires rethinking new solutions for working conditions and career paths helping workers to retain their physical and mental health – as well as motivation and productivity – throughout an extended working life. Eurofound has titled the broad goal set out by this statement as ‘making work sustainable over the life course’. Identifying and analysing the factors and actions underpinning sustainable work throughout working life has been a research priority for Eurofound since 2013. In this article, the Eurofound reference framework of sustainable work is introduced and its components are discussed. In a first step, the rather expansive concept of sustainable work was illuminated by a framework that explains our approach and that has been used as reference point for a range of Eurofound research projects examining different aspects of sustainable work. Section 2 presents sustainable work outcome indicators on the societal and the individual level and provides some reflections of how those can be used jointly to map overall beneficial work environments for sustainable work. Section 3 investigates contextual factors such as infrastructures, workplace practices and job quality. The specific role of motivation is highlighted in section 4 based on empirical analysis. The paper closes with some conclusions and a policy outlook.