Sustainable Employability Based on the swAge-Model: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 2 by Yvaine Wei and Version 1 by TIANAN YANG.

Sustainable employability commonly refers to the ability of employees to participate in work and the labour market during their lifetimes. The swAge-model, a tool that helps us understand how to make working life more sustainable and healthier for all ages, can be the basis of sustainable employability.

  • sustainable employability
  • definition
  • the swAge-model

1. Introduction

Sustainable employability is very important for individuals, organisations, and society, it deserves our attention. For individuals, work provides economic security and social ties, as well as forming an important part of and giving meaning to their daily lives. Organisations need productive employees to improve organisational performance and survive market competition. Society needs as many people as possible to participate in the labour market to maintain economic welfare and social stability [2][1]. In view of the aging of the global population, there may be a labour shortage in the future [3][2] and research on sustainable employability is necessary. 

In the medical sector, for example, the aging of the labour force has led to a continuous decrease in the overall number of medical workers. At the same time, the number of patients has been increasing. This imposes a heavy workload on the medical staff, causing physical, mental, and emotional pressures [5][3]. More and more healthcare workers encounter mental health problems due to job difficulties, and many choose to change departments or leave their jobs before the official retirement age, thus causing a further reduction in medical staff [6][4]. Meanwhile, the productivity of medical workers may decline due to their poor physical condition and the instability of the staff caused by resignations and changes. The quality of medical services may decline accordingly [7][5]. The reduction of medical resources and the increase in demand are very urgent problems for the organisation of medicine as a whole and society. Sustainable employability can prolong the careers of employees in the medical industry, guarantee the working ability of the medical staff, retain trained experts, and maintain their irreplaceable skills and professional knowledge. Helping medical organisations build a stable and healthy workforce will benefit individuals, organisations, and society [8,9][6][7].

2. The Development and Deficiencies of the Sustainable Employability Concept

Although sustainable employability is of great significance to individuals, organisations, and society, there are still many gaps and deficiencies in the definition and dimensions used to measure this capacity. It was first defined by van der Klink et al. as follows: ‘sustainable employability means that, throughout their working lives, workers can achieve tangible opportunities in the form of a set of capabilities. They also enjoy the necessary conditions that allow them to make a valuable contribution through their work, now and in the future, while safeguarding their health and welfare. This requires, on the one hand, a work context that facilitates this for them and on the other, the attitude and motivation to exploit these opportunities [1][8]. This definition has been widely used in subsequent studies [9,10,11][7][9][10]. It describes sustainable employability as a multidimensional concept, acknowledges the importance of employees and job characteristics, and, to a certain extent, acknowledges the longitudinal characteristic, an individual’s employability over time, of this concept. However, Fleuren et al. noted that there are omissions in this definition. They argued that: 1. this definition does not specify which dimensions constitute an individual’s sustainable employability; 2. sustainable employability cannot be regarded as a characteristic of both the job and the employee simultaneously; 3. based on assumptions that have not been fully verified, weit cannot be asserted that achieving value in work will lead to sustainable employability; 4. the definition of sustainable employability should include unemployed people to make the concept applicable to a larger group; and 5. the definition of sustainable employability should address the inherently longitudinal characteristic, that is, an individual’s employability over time [2][1]. Among the shortcomings proposed, the first is particularly obvious in later studies. For example, Roczniewska et al. and Hazelzet et al. both acknowledged the definition put forward by van der Klink when studying the theoretical background of sustainable employability, but in the quantitative analysis stage their measurement dimensions varied. The former mainly used three dimensions: productivity, physical and mental health, and happiness, while the latter replaced happiness with valuable work and long-term perspective [9,11][7][10].
In their later research, Fleuren et al. formulated their own definition according to the points they raised, after integrating and reviewing existing sustainable employability definitions. They argued that sustainable employability refers to the ability of an individual to function in work and the labour market, or that employability is not negatively (and preferably positively) affected by personal employment status. This ability can be captured by combining nine indicators (perceived health status, work ability, recovery needs, fatigue, job satisfaction, job motivation, perceived employability, skill gap, and job performance) to describe the extent to which a person can be employed at different stages of his or her work life [4][11].
A key feature of recent changes in the labour market is that information and communication technologies (ICT) play an increasingly important role in several aspects of employment [19][12]. These technologies have affected the nature and employment situation of many industries and occupations, and their use will affect the location and time of work [20][13]. They underpinned the development in job search, recruitment, and selection practices [21][14]. Therefore, if employees want to make employability sustainable, they have to consider the impact of the digital age. 

3. Establishing a New Sustainable Employability Concept

3.1. Sustainable and Intrinsic Work Value

The adjective sustainable is used to describe something that is ‘able to continue at the same level for a period of time’ [22][15]. Finkbeiner et al. also point out that sustainability is at the original level. Specifically, it means that the resources are maintained after use, and the total amount has not decreased or even increased, which implies positive development and added value for the environment and stakeholders [23][16]. Similarly, PubMed defines sustainable development as ‘a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations’ [24][17].
As far as the sustainability of employability is concerned, we define employability is defined to be sustainable if workers perceive that their work or work environment is valuable [1][8]. Jonathan Holslag’s The Strength of Paradise showed that work has become trivial and unattractive to many people in modern society. He advocated paying more attention to the values that are vital to human survival, arguing that values such as meaning and recognition can be satisfied in the workplace and can thus motivate people to continue working [25][18]. According to the theory of self-depletion, a person must consume resources when performing volitional activities (e.g., process control, active choice, initiation behaviour, and overcoming reactions), but such resources are often limited. The more abundant the resources available to perform volitional activities, the easier it is to succeed. For employees to successfully achieve sustainable employment and maintain a high level of sustainable employability, employees’ intrinsic motivation is needed as a resource for consumption [26][19]. According to self-determination theory, the satisfaction of basic psychological needs is very important for individual intrinsic motivation [27][20]. A valuable job can satisfy employees’ psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and psychological relatedness, thus promoting their intrinsic motivation [28][21]

3.2. Employability and Dynamic Chain

Employability was originally defined by Hillage and Pollard as a person’s ability to obtain and maintain employment and productivity [30][22]. In fact, from ‘maintaining and obtaining’, we can infer the concept of sustainability can be inferred. In subsequent development studies, employability has been defined as individuals’ job opportunities in the internal or external labour market [31][23]. Based on this definition, scholars have examined what constitutes this kind of ‘opportunity’. Some have evaluated the realisation of job opportunities from the perspective of mobility (job transitions), others have focused on how personal advantages such as knowledge, skills, and attitudes influence job opportunities (movement capital), while others have explored the personal evaluation of job opportunities (perceived employability). Due to these different approaches, employability has become a vague and catch-all concept. To resolve this confusing situation, Forrier connected different concepts of employability into a ‘dynamic chain’ of three dimensions, namely job transitions, movement capital, and perceived employability [32][24]. Job transitions expand a person’s movement capital [33][25], movement capital improves a person’s perceived employability [34][26], while perceived employability encourages employees to achieve further job transitions [35][27].

3.3. Sustainable Employability and the swAge-Model

The swAge-model is considered to be a tool in the task of understanding how to make working life more sustainable and healthier for all ages, which can be the basis of sustainable employability [36,37][28][29]. The swAge-model describe three influence levels of importance for work life participation and to a sustainable extended working life: the individual level, micro level; the organizational and enterprise level, meso level; and the society level, macro level. Based on swAge-model, we have formed a m more logical and informed definition of sustainable employability have been formed.
The dimensions of this definition can be seen in Figure 1
Figure 1.
 The dimensions of sustainable employability.

4. Components of Sustainable Employability

4.1. Digital Exclusion

Digital exclusion is broadly defined as being unable to access or use internet-enabled technology and Web-based services [38][30]. It can be divided into three aspects including access, motivation, and low confidence [19][12]. Access includes issues of physical access to hardware and software and affordability thereof. Motivation refers to encompassing lack of interest in or lack of perceived need to use ICT. Low confidence mainly means that employees lack confidence to adapt to the digital age and ICT [38][30].

4.2. Intrinsic Work Value

When the task is regarded as meaningful, challenging, and conducive to personal development, and when employees are recognised for their contributions, the work is regarded as having intrinsic value [28][21]. Recent research has focused on employees’ views on four aspects of work: meaning, recognition, challenge, and learning value. Work is considered meaningful when it provides a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and contribution [39][31]. Recognition means that a person’s contribution to their organisation is acknowledged and is usually regarded as one of the intangible rewards that motivate employees [40][32]. Challenge refers to when difficult task elements require employees to exert their potential by stimulating their curiosity, creativity, and enjoyment [41][33]. Learning value refers to the learning experience present in the working environment [42][34], which leads to the development of employees’ abilities [43][35].

4.3. Job Transitions

Job transitions represent an individual’s opportunities in the labour market and include any change in employment situation or substantial changes in job content [44][36]. These changes can be within the same organisation (internal work transfer), or across different organisations (external work transfer). Specific measurement indices can be divided according to whether internal work transfer or external work transfer is involved [32][24]. They can also be divided along the line of horizontal work transfer and vertical work transfer [45][37].

4.4. Movement Capital

Personal advantages increase employees’ opportunities in the labour market because they can help individuals effectively cope with labour market changes [46][38]. Movement capital accounts for these different personal advantages; that is, ‘personal skills, knowledge, abilities, and attitudes that affect career mobility’ [47][39]. It is usually divided into four dimensions: human capital, social capital, self-awareness, and adaptability. Human capital refers to an individual’s ability to meet specific professional performance expectations [48][40]. Social capital reflects the value of social networks in one’s career [49][41]. Self-awareness refers to the reflection on one’s past and present career and provides direction for future career opportunities [48][40]. Finally, adaptability refers to the necessary changes in behaviour, emotion, and thought to meet the requirements of the environment [50][42]. These four dimensions explain employability from the perspective of a person, which has received great attention in previous research [51][43].

4.5. Perceived Employability

Perceived employability explores employability from the perspective of personal views on existing employment opportunities. Advocates believe that it captures the interaction between personal and environmental factors, because people consider environmental factors such as labour market conditions in addition to personal factors when evaluating their employability [52][44]. The perception of employability can be determined in relation to current employers (perceived internal employability) or other employers (perceived external employability). These two dimensions are often put forward by other studies and used in empirical studies [53][45].


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