June 1, 2023

Workers spend two years less in retirement than executives

Social inequalities in the face of death remain and have fueled, for several months, the debate on raising the legal retirement age. For the workers, the sentences are multiple, advance, this Wednesday, researchers from the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED). They first die younger than the executives. The length of their retirement is also shorter, despite earlier retirements. Finally, the pensions they receive are impacted by more frequent periods of inactivity, details the study.

Six years less life expectancy

First element of response put forward: executives live longer on average than blue-collar workers. In 2018, the period studied by the researchers, life expectancy at age 35 for executives was 49 years and 7 months for men, compared to only 44 years for workers, i.e. a difference of almost 6 years.

At 62, the legal retirement age over the period studied, the difference is still significant. The life expectancy of executives is 23 years and 9 months. That of workers aged 20 years and 4 months, ie 3 years and 6 months younger. Workers are also more likely than executives to die before they are even 62 years old.

These differences are also found among women to a lesser extent. At 35, the life expectancy of executive women is 3 years and 5 months higher than that of workers. At 62, the gap is 2 years and 8 months.

Shorter retirements

The researchers then sought to divide these years of life into several categories, namely the years in employment, those in unemployment, inactivity, and in retirement. Here again, inequalities between social classes emerge.

Despite retiring at a younger age than executives, workers spend two years less there, the study suggests. In detail, the 49.7 years of life expectancy for male executives at age 35 are broken down into 27.4 years of employment and 21.1 years of retirement (43% of life expectancy).

For manual workers, the distribution of the 44 years of life expectancy at age 35 is 20.2 years in employment and 19.1 years in retirement (42% of life expectancy). Employees can enjoy, on average, 21.5 years in retirement, slightly more than executives. A specificity linked to the existence of early retirement liquidation schemes for certain professions in this category.

Ends of complex careers

Notable differences also appear on periods of unemployment and inactivity. “Workers’ careers are marked by periods of unemployment or longer inactivity,” observes Emmanuelle Dubois, researcher at INED. Direct consequence: “this makes chopped careers and the amounts of pensions suffer”, advances the co-author of the study.

“The idea is that if we push back the legal age of departure, this period which precedes retirement will extend until the new legal age”, she explains. “This will prolong the situations neither in employment nor in retirement, if the conditions on the labor market do not improve”, she warns. The government’s objective is precisely to modify these conditions. For researchers, job retention schemes will be one of the major challenges of the retirement system for generations to come.

Working women more prone to choppy careers

The life expectancy of workers at age 35 consists of 23.6 years of retirement (47%), ie 8 months less than managers. Their employment durations are much shorter (20 years on average). On the other hand, they spend more time unemployed or inactive (respectively 4 and 3 years).

Half of their inactivity corresponds to interruptions associated with maternity or taking care of the household. The other half is explained by difficulties in keeping or finding a job, sometimes due to recognized or unrecognized disabilities.

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