The labour market after age 50: some elements of a Franco-American comparison
This paper examines various supply and demand side aspects of the French labour market for older workers and puts them in perspective by comparing them to the US case. We first consider the supply side incentives (or disincentives) of basic pension schemes for the two countries : for France, we discuss how these incentives have been changed by the 1993 and 2003 pension reforms and we present some projections of the impact of these reforms on labour force participation rates, based on the DESTINIE dynamic microsimulation model. We then discuss, on the demand side, the hypothesis of a wage-productivity gap for older workers which could explain their lower employment rates. Evidence in favor of this hypothesis is not overwhelming. Nevertheless, workers who lose their jobs at older ages probably suffer a large loss of firm-specific and sector-specific human capital. In the US, this does not preclude re-employment, but at the cost of significant drops of wage levels. In France, the collective choice has been made since the 1970s to allow older workers who lose their jobs to completely withdraw from the labour market : these workers have access to preretirement schemes or specific dispositions of unemployment insurance (including an exemption from seeking employment). This system proved difficult to regulate. Due to these difficulties, France has not been able to do more than stabilize the employment rate in the 55-64 age bracket during the 1990s, after 20 years of continuous decline. The key unanswered question is whether it will be possible to increase the employment rate of this age group in the next two decades.
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- Sveinbjörn Blöndal & Stefano Scarpetta, 1999. "The Retirement Decision in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 202, OECD Publishing.