Europeans are living longer than ever. However, as average life expectancy has been rising, retirement ages have also been creeping steadily upwards. Meanwhile, Europe is greying; the number of pensioners will continue to rise, while the proportion of the population of working-age to support them will fall. Some policy wonks, therefore, have been suggesting raising retirement ages even further.
Yet if European countries keep raising retirement ages, could some workers end up not retiring at all? Might we, in effect, risk abolishing retirement altogether? Can we all work until we’re 70… or even 100?
What do our readers think? We had a question sent in from Fern, who believes that further rises in Europe’s retirement ages are inevitable. Is she right? Will we all have to work until we’re 100?
To get a response, we spoke to Monika Queisser, Head of the Social Policy Division at the OECD’s Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. How would she answer Fern’s question?
We’re already seeing that OECD countries have been increasing retirement ages over the past couple of years to respond to people living longer. And we see that, even though retirement ages have been going up, life expectancy is still increasing faster than the increases in retirement age. Which means that people are spending longer and longer in retirement.
So, essentially that’s good news, but, of course, somebody has to pay for it. And that is why many countries are increasing retirement ages indeed, but they’re paying great attention to the fact that not all of this extra time in retirement is spent in healthy retirement. So, countries are closely watching how far they can go in increasing the retirement age while making sure that those people who cannot work longer are still going to be protected.
For another perspective, we put the same question to Lynda Armstrong from the UK-based volunteer organisation Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). How would she respond?
That’s a very pertinent question because, [in August 2019] one of the government’s think-tanks, which is – I believe – chaired by Iain Duncan Smith [the former British Work & Pensions Secretary], actually published a recommendation that the retirement age should be raised to 75, I believe.
So, on that basis, there does seem to be an intention by government – whoever they may be – to continue to raise the state pension age, which is obviously what I’m talking about here. So, is it inevitable? I believe that it does look that way, but I’m not an expert on life expectancy, which is where the argument that they use for the reason that the state pension age needs to be continually increased. I think, statistically, life expectancy has kind of plateaued in recent years; it did go up, but I think recently it’s plateaued, so I think that argument could become weaker as time goes on, but only time will tell.
Will we all have to work until we’re 100? Should retirement ages keep going up alongside life expectancy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!