Live Longer, Work Longer

OECD Observer

Are older workers denied choice about when and how they retire? Certainly, the average number of years that workers across the OECD can expect to spend in retirement has risen sharply, from less than 11 years in 1970 to just under 18 years in 2004 for men, and from less than 14 years to just under 23 years for women.

Some of this increase may reflect personal decisions, but a closer look suggests that employment and social practices in most countries actually discourage older workers from staying on the job. This obviously results in a waste of valuable resources, not least in terms of skills and productivity, which business, the economy and society can ill-afford. For Live Longer, Work Longer, prepared under the leadership of the OECD’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Directorate, the message is clear: this present situation must stop.

Policy reforms are needed to reverse the trend towards ever-earlier retirement, but what can governments do to bring about changes that are often unpopular with many voters? How can workers, employers and governments work together to secure a prosperous future? This report seeks to answer these questions. It is the final report in the OECD’s thematic review of policies to improve employment prospects for older workers. Altogether 21 countries participated in the review over a four-year period.

Drawing on the lessons learned from the country reviews, the report focuses on policies to remove obstacles and improve the employment potential of all older workers, whether those that want to stay on working longer or those wishing to come back into the job market.

In proactive fashion, the report promotes a new agenda of reform: that while population ageing is a challenge, it is also a tremendous opportunity for growth and social betterment. If seized, then longer and healthier lives will be matched by more fruitful, fuller, working lives for those that wish it. In other words, encouraging older workers is not just about easing the burden on pension costs, but boosting welfare and choice too.


©OECD Observer No 254, March 2006

Economic data


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