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Retirement Policies and the Life Cycle: Current Trends and Future Prospects


  • William Jackson


During the 20th century, pensions in developed countries were generally payable from a statutory retirement age which provided a norm for retirement behaviour and a threshold dividing older from younger age groups. Governments, by setting fixed starting dates for work and retirement, created a standardised life cycle with clearly delineated and uniform boundaries between education, work and retirement stages. Over the last 30 years or so, retirement behaviour has diverged from official norms and moved towards earlier retirement, although pressures for later retirement are now increasing as concerns over pension finance provoke calls for older workers to remain economically active. Weaker retirement norms have prompted speculation that working practices may be evolving from a Fordist life cycle with fixed stages to post-Fordist life courses with fluid and variable personal experiences. This paper assesses current trends, asking whether they do indicate major changes in the life cycle, and considers the flexibility of retirement, paying particular attention to the influence of government and employers. Several ways in which retirement could develop are identified, but few of them remove the constraints on retirees: truly flexible retirement will not occur spontaneously and will require explicit policies to safeguard retirement choices.

Suggested Citation

  • William Jackson, 2009. "Retirement Policies and the Life Cycle: Current Trends and Future Prospects," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(4), pages 515-536.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:21:y:2009:i:4:p:515-536
    DOI: 10.1080/09538250903215823

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Geneviève Reday-Mulvey & Lei Delsen, 1996. "Gradual Retirement in the OECD Countries, a Summary of the Main Results," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan;The Geneva Association, vol. 21(4), pages 502-523, October.
    2. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, June.
    3. William A. Jackson, 1998. "The Political Economy of Population Ageing," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 765.
    4. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "A Theory of the Allocation of Time and Goods Over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle, pages 1-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Costa, Dora L., 1998. "The Evolution of Retirement," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226116082.
    6. Costa, Dora L, 1998. "The Evolution of Retirement: Summary of a Research Project," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 232-236, May.
    7. Sergio Cesaratto, 2005. "Pension Reform and Economic Theory," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2081.
    8. Dora L. Costa, 1998. "The Evolution of Retirement: An American Economic History, 1880-1990," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number cost98-1, June.
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