Life expectancy, economic prosperity and retirement preferences
Increasing life expectancy coupled with declining birth rates is prompting European countries to revise their current pension schemes. The key elements of pension reforms are 1) introducing funded schemes as a means to supplement the current pay-as-you-go system, and 2) a lengthening of the working careers of European citizens. The policy reforms needed constitutes perhaps the biggest challenge facing European policy makers since the introduction of the welfare state after the Second World War. The urgency of the policy reforms are reflected by the European Council Summits of Stockholm (2001) and Barcelona (2002), where the attending policy makers agreed to both increase the labour force participation among older workers and to delay the retirement period. Notwithstanding the efforts, recent changes in the employment rates and the retirement age indicate that the great majority of countries are way off the targets set for 2010. On the backdrop of the policy challenges lying ahead, we consider in this paper individuals' preferences for work and retirement in 23 European countries. A deeper understanding of these preferences helps policy makers, not only informing them about the potential success of the planned pension reforms, but also to make adjustments to its design that may lead to efficiency gains in welfare provision. We find that on average individuals prefer to retire at a younger age than the current mean retirement age. However, there is huge variation in these preferences both at the individual and country levels. We find rather robust evidence to suggest that individuals are willing to work longer as the average life expectancy is increasing.
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