Retirement at Risk in an Ageing Europe: Employment Flexibilization, Pension Marketization, and Social Inequality

Research question/goal: 

Insecurities and uncertainties arising from labour market flexibilization and pension marketization are major challenges to ageing societies in Europe as these processes can intensify greater heterogeneity of retirement transitions and social inequalities in old age income. Increasingly, flexibilization leads to interrupted careers, non-standard employment, and incomplete pension coverage. Moreover, pension reforms towards marketization make old age income more dependent upon previous employment, contribution records and returns on investment. This comparative project analyses the social consequences of these developments over the last two and future two decades, investigating the changes in retirement expectations, transitions and income. From a sociological perspective, it focuses on social risk groups vulnerable to the hazards of non-standard employment (atypical jobs, low wages) and non-employment. From a political economic perspective it studies the impact of pension marketization on old age income insecurity in times of financial market uncertainty. The project specifically addresses social risks dimensions of cohort, gender, partnership, disability, and migrant status. Cross-national and longitudinal analyses examine employment, pension and old age income development in European countries. The project innovatively combines a retrospective analysis of employment trajectories and pension reforms, cross-sectional studies of individual retirement expectations and transitions, and a prospective simulation of future retirement income. By studying general and country-specific social risk groups, the analysis identifies those most likely disadvantaged in old age. Analysing best practices, it contributes to policy debates on reconciling flexibility and security.

Major challenges to the future of welfare states in ageing societies arise from the social consequences of labour market flexibilization and the marketization of retirement income. In comparative longitudinal analyses, this project will study how the interaction of employment flexibilization and pension marketization affects the retirement of vulnerable social risk groups with non-standard careers across Europe. It explores the fundamental question: to what degree does employment flexibilization and the marketization of pensions affect retirement expectations, transitions from work to retirement, and the income situation of pensioners? The project combines macro-sociological and micro-level survey analyses in a comparative and longitudinal approach.

Fact sheet

2015 to 2018