Moritz Heß
Preferred and Expected Retirement Age in Germany and Europe

2016, Mannheim, University of Mannheim. (Dissertation)

The demographic trend of aging is challenging the financial long-term sustainability of Europe’s welfare states as the number of beneficiaries is increasing while the number of contributors is declining. In response, policymakers have implemented several labor market and pension reforms aimed at extending working life. In my dissertation I extend previous research by studying how current older workers and future pensioners have adapted to these reforms. The dissertation consist of five studies, which are based on different data sets (European Social Survey; Eurobarometer; German Socio-Economic Panel; German Ageing Study), that investigate the preferred retirement age – the age at which older workers wish to retire – and the expected retirement age – the age at which older workers anticipate retiring. Its results show that the average preferred and the average expected retirement age have increased over the last ten years. However, the size of this increase varies over different groups of older workers. While high-skilled, white-collar ‘Silver Workers’ are able to synchronize their preferred and expected retirement age, low-qualified workers in often unfavorable working conditions are increasingly forced to delay their retirement to ensure a sufficient pension and, thus, expect to work longer than they prefer. This finding supports recent warnings that the free choice of when to retire might become the privilege of well-paid, high-skilled employees, and that we might observe a (re)emergence of social inequality in the retirement process.