Downshifters in Australia – Interesting Case Study

Sorry to remind you, but life is finite. Better start here and now to make the best of it!

Sorry to remind you, but life is finite. Better start here and now to make the best of it! (sculls seen at Meteora monastery, Greece)

Hi there to the beginning of the rest of your life!

Not cheerful enough for a greeting?

Well, maybe, but it’s the truth!
Sorry to remind everybody every now and then that our time is limited. But then, we all need to be aware of this fact, and draw consequences, like trying to have a good day here and now!

As Woodpecker’s family is planning to do exactly that and is going to celebrate our very good family budget results with a decent meal at a nice restaurant around and everybody is already waiting downstairs, today’s post will be short.

Short but very valuable, as I found an interesting study by the Australia Institute about Downshifting in Australia.

They interviewed a couple of downshifters with different approaches (e.g. cutting hours, retiring, changing job to something less paid but more rewarding) on their reasons, feelings, pro’s and con’s, how peers reacted and so forth.

A very valuable Sunday read that gave me some great insights. Hope it’s interesting for you as well.

See for yourself and let me know your opinion:

Interview w/ downshifters in Australia (pdf)




9 comments on “Downshifters in Australia – Interesting Case Study

  1. Woody says:

    Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing it. I was surprised about the large number of downshifters (25%) – I suppose the number is much smaller here in Germany.
    It was nice to see, that none of the downshifters regretted their decision.

    Greetings from Baden

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi Woody,

      I agree that the number of downshifters is probably lower in Germany. That’s maybe because of Germans (overdone) work-ethics and tendency to decline un-usual life-styles respectively their tendency to define themselves by their jobs?
      Also jealousy is high here so it’s difficult to show you are downshifting and happy with it?

      I’d be interested in your opinion, but I still stuggle a bit how to communicate my own downshifting to esteemed friends and colleagues without getting too much rejection.

      Because downshifting here still is kind of a stigma, I guess there might be more “silent” downshifters. I.e. people working part-time, self-employed or home-office and enjoy a lot of free time without mentioning it too loud.

      Would be great to hear your thoughts about this…


      • Woody says:

        Hi Mr Woodpecker!
        I’m not sure whether it is a typical German phenomenom to see downshifting critically. As far as I can tell by reports of other EREs/downshifters, the typical reactions to a downshift are the same as mentioned in the Australian study and therefore international (at least for the economically oriented countries).
        But I guess you are right about silent downshifters. There might be some, but I do know very few in my social environment: One guy at work reduced the number of working hours after a burn-out therapy and my wife had to downshift due to a serious chronical illness. I think the health-related downshifting is socially accepted but downshifting for “a happy life” is seen as “dubious”.
        I’m quite sure my colleagues and a few others (hopefully not my best friends) will not understand my downshifting as well. It’s not “the normal way of living” and why should I give up a high-salary job in the field of engineering? Maybe it will be easier to explain for me due to the health issues of my wife.
        I think the most important part of explaining a downsift is to pay attention that you’re not telling (even between the lines) that their way of living is stupid and you’ve found the philosophers’ stone. I think it’s important to stress the positive aspects of your new life instead of mentioning the bad ones of the life that your friends/family/colleagues will keep up.
        Well currently this is just pure theory since I’m still a few years from downshifting. I think you will know much more about the reactions of your environment. The uncertain situation of my wife keeps me at work, but as soon as a downshift is financially possible, I’ll gather my own experiences on this field.
        BTW, it’s a good to see that there is another German having a different view on the “normal” way of living.
        Best regards

      • mrwoodpecker says:

        I think your theorie about mentioning the positive without criticizing others goes absolutely in the right direction. In the end nobody likes to hear lessons on how to live his/her life.

        My own experience is still limited as well.
        It consisted mainly out of a total of 10 months of parental leave over the last 3 years, a reduction of over-time to exactly zero by taking days off instead of going for cash, a much more healthy distance to gossip and company politics, two days home office per week, a more relaxed attitude to stay at home when I or the kids are ill instead of forcing myself to the office, daring to quit a work-day at 2 p.m. when the weather is fine and I feel like going to the lake, and the decline of a career option that would have severly hampered my freedoms that I achieved by now.
        These are far from extreme steps yet (while my life-satisfaction already increased significantly), however I felt the pressure to explain myself already quite often. And I admit that I frequently used the kids as an excuse. Well, “excuse” is the wrong word, as naturally I do spent a lot of the additional time with family, but you know what I mean. As well as illness, kids and family are quite accepted as an explanation.

        Just saying “I want to idle” would indeed be difficult, I think that is because it makes people jealous, whereas kids and illness gives them the feeling you still do not really relax in your free time, so nothing to be jealous on. Same problem applies to (loose) friends – good friends seem to be more open, as stated in the case-study.
        In your position, within the company I’d definitely argue that you need time to care for your wife, it will most likely help you achieve what you want! Becaus many people are stuck in the rat-race, but most are still social beings.

        Another strategy is to increase your downshifting gradually. I made the experience that people at work adapt better if you do it step by step.

        Well, I guess the difficult part is when you finally switch to part-time (I’m planning it 3 years from now, until then I can still do enough unpaid parental leaves). I think that’s the moment you are leaving “normal live” in Germany, at least as a well paid male in a not-too-bad job. Maybe we’ll have to invent a burn-out experience in our past or so?!? Keep us posted on your progress and thoughts, I am very interested in other German’s experiences!
        Any experience from other readers as well?


  2. Hi Woodpecker,

    Both my wife and I have spent the evening debating the downshifting article from the Australian Institute versus our “downshifting plans”.

    We have had what I consider a fascinating conversation around professional / personal recognition. I have “sacrificed” (how silly) my career (soul to a corporation?) to be a “childminder” versus a corporate superstar (workaholic) – don’t get me wrong I did like work – and what will happen my wife’s excellent career, status and benefit to UK society versus downshifting.

    It is always refreshing to challenge our plans to “downshift” to reaffirm our convictions and values. Secondly we consider downshifting as changing gears on a car. We like the motorway but want to take the country roads for a while, if we want to get back on the motorway we can if not what a view!

    Final take away is that we really do understand the social pressure of our decision to downsize. I keep on being asked the question: why do it? Personally I find it hard to keep on “justifying” the decision. “We want do do this as it all in in the best for every single family member” or the I am fed up with being asked to justify the answer “Because we can”. This will never adequately pass on our ideas and thoughts to people who don’t think about the reasons deeply. Many don’t accept our viewpoint who unfortunately just don’t “get it”.

    Thank you for finding this report gem. Rant over 😉


    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi MUFF,

      you certainly are way ahead of me down the down-shifting path. My deep respect for your moves!
      Currently I try to keep the issue low key when talking to friends and colleagues.
      Point is that by telling them you are downshifting you practically are challenging their way to live.

      Think about it:
      Most people in the rat race know deeply down in their hearts that the way they live is kind of a bore compared with what they probably fancied when they were young and more free. But to feel not too bad about it, they justify their rat-race participation by saying “there is no other way, so we all have to accept that this is our lives”.
      Now come you (or I or another) and demonstrate that there indeed is another way and they followed the wrong path all the time. So the first natural reaction is to reject this.
      That’s probably the reason why it is so difficult to speak about downshifting to non-downshifters.

      There are two exceptions however:
      – People who really like their jobs. Because they do not feel challenged as they are happy anyway. For them work is not rat-race but their true choice.
      – People pondering about downshifting already. They will feel inspired.
      You can openly speak to those groups without offending anyone in my experience.


  3. That is indeed a very interesting case study, and I happen to live in Australia too. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve actually been considering the idea of “downshifting” and I can relate to being a little worried and afraid of feeling financially insecure if I do so. It’s great to see that the people in the case study managed to break through that and ultimately achieve a happier life.

  4. Happy says:

    Hi Woodpecker,
    I’ve been downshifting in one form or another for about 2 decades. Until I read your blog I didn’t fully know thats what I had been doing! So nice to find someone on the same path. My latest step is to work half time or become semiretired as I call it. Its grouse 🙂 (Aussie slang for great). Thanks for the article..really enjoyed it


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