Sustainable employability - definition, conceptualization, and implications: A perspective based on the capability approach

J.J.L. van der Klink, U. Bültmann, A. Burdorf, W.B. Schaufeli, F.R.H. Zijlstra, F.I. Abma, S. Brouwer, G.J. van der Wilt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is to propose a new model of sustainable employability based on the capability approach, encompassing the complexity of contemporary work, and placing particular emphasis on work-related values.
Having evaluated existing conceptual models of work, health, and employability, we concluded that prevailing models lack an emphasis on important work-related values. Amartya Sen’s capability approach (CA) provides a framework that incorporates a focus on values and reflects the complexity of sustainable employability.
We developed a model of sustainable employability based on the CA. This model can be used as starting point for developing an assessment tool to investigate sustainable employability.
A fundamental premise of the CA is that work should create value for the organization as well as for the worker. This approach challenges researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners to investigate what people find important and valuable – what they would like to achieve in a given (work) context – and moreover to ascertain whether people are able and enabled to do so. According to this approach, it is not only the individual who is responsible for achieving this; the work context is also important. Rather than merely describing relationships between variables, as existing descriptive models often do, the CA depicts a valuable goal: a set of capabilities that constitute valuable work. Moreover, the CA fits well with recent conceptions of health and modern insights into work, in which the individual works towards his or her own goals that s/he has to achieve within the broader goals of the organization.
Key terms: Amartya Sen; capability approach; employability; model; quality of working life; sustainable employability; work
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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