Age and Productivity of Academics: A Case Study of a Public University in Malaysia


  • Siew Hwa Yen Universiti Sains Malaysia
  • Hock Eam Lim Universiti Utara Malaysia
  • James K Campbell Deakin University


Academics, age, key performance indicators, life-cycle productivity


This study examines the relationship between age and productivity measured based on key performance indicators (KPI) amongst academic staff at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Three models were used in the analysis: linear, quadratic and piece- wise spline. The linear model indicates that age is negatively related to KPI. The quadratic model shows an inverted-LI shaped relationship where KPI peaks at age 41 years. The piece-wise spline model indicates academic staff reach the peak of their productivity between ages 46-50 years with another productive age interval between 36-40 years implying 10 golden years when KPI could be harvested fruitfully. There is a significant downtrend in the KPI after 50 years of age. Other factors that have significant influence on KPI are gender, academic rank and discipline. The sub-models show that the influence of age on KPI is more significant amongst academic staff in the arts compared to the science stream. Age influence on KPI is significant amongst female staff but not male staff. We conclude that assessing performance in the workplace with regard to age requires complex methodological engagement and also needs to be based on a wider lens which recognises and includes within the discussion, the intangible and social dimensions of performance.


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Author Biographies

Siew Hwa Yen, Universiti Sains Malaysia

School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Hock Eam Lim, Universiti Utara Malaysia

College of Business, Universiti Utara Malaysia

James K Campbell, Deakin University

Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University