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

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  • William Jackson

Abstract

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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