Dirk Hofäcker, Marge Unt
Exploring the ‘new worlds’ of (late?) retirement in Europe

Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 2013: 29, issue 2, pp. 163-183
ISSN: 2169-9763 (print); 2169-978X (online)

After a long period of promoting early retirement, European societies have recently started to implement various reforms aimed at fostering a longer working life. Yet cross-national variations in older workers' employment remain, as institutional path dependency, socio-economic climate and persistent retirement culture have not allowed all countries to implement reforms to the same degree. In our paper, we provide an up-to-date international overview of country-specific contexts that support or hinder the employment of older workers in European countries. To this end, we use information on labour market, pension, and welfare policies that affect older workers' employment opportunities and retirement decisions. Adding to previous research, we contrast these “structural” indicators with selected “cultural” evidence from the European Survey data (Eurobarometer, European Social Survey) reflecting recent trends in retirement-related attitudes, perceptions and preferences. The available data allow for an unusually broad geographical scope, encompassing both Western European and Eastern European societies. Using these data, we perform a hierarchical cluster analysis to identify the specific types of “retirement regimes”. Finally, we relate these “new worlds of retirement” to the differentiation of “early” versus “late” exit regimes suggested by earlier literature to identify the forerunners and laggards in the gradual transition towards later retirement in Europe.