Perceptions of pension systems and expectations of own retirement - A pan-European comparison
Institute of Family Research Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg Bamberg, Germany
Social Policy Research TNS Infratest Munich, Germany
Referat Befragungen zur Alterssicherung DRV Bund / German Pension Fund Berlin, Germany
In recent years, the topic of early retirement has loomed large on the European public policy agenda. As recent data by Eurostat (2006) confirm, half of all men and women in Europe leave active employment before age 61, i.e. well before reaching mandatory national retirement ages. The strains which this trend has posed on the sustainability of national pension systems has led to numerous political reform attempts to reverse the current early exit trend, mostly through cutback in the attractiveness of early retirement options and pension system generosity. By these means, the ambitious goals of the European Union?s Barcelona target (i.e. to lift average retirement by five years) and the Stockholm target (i.e. to raise employment rates among workers aged 55-64 to an average level of 50%) are to be reached by the year 2010. Difficulties in reaching this aim, however, indicate that a mere shift in pension system generosity may not suffice to fully reverse early retirement.
One possible explanation of this discrepancy may be that political reform proposals yet are not in line with European citizen?s perceptions, expectations and wishes regarding their own retirement transition. Against this background, our paper intends to provide an up-to-date overview of attitudes towards retirement within Europe. Using most recent data from the Eurobarometer studies (Eurobarometer 60.3 respectively Candidate Countries Eurobarometer 2003.5) as well as the European Social Survey (Wave 3), we will analyse at which ages European citizens wish and expect to retire, which type of retirement transition they favour (full vs. gradual) and under which conditions they would be willing to delay their retirement plans.
Following this descriptive overview, we will then turn to a comprehensive analysis of the determinants that influence individual retirement preferences, ranging from individual level factors (such as age, employment status, education) as well as factors of the societal context (such as characteristics of national welfare states and pension systems).
Based on these results, we shall finally provide a critical review of the degree to which current retirement expectations correspond with European pension reform programmes and what measures could be taken to better reconcile both.