Martin Kohli


Pension systems are a major part of the political economy of current societies – much beyond providing old-age income security. The well-known demographics of population aging as well as globalization today challenge their financial viability. Later retirement seems to be a good way to meet these challenges. However, it is not only unpopular but also inequitable in terms of differential longevity. The paper first discusses these problems, with a particular focus on the social stratification of mortality. It then analyzes the preferences towards retirement age at several levels:  in terms of attitudes towards public spending on pensions or towards the state’s responsibility in this matter, of support for pension policy alternatives, and of preferred individual age of retirement. Results show that large majorities across all age groups are in favour of more government spending on pensions. There is a substantial amount of ‘involuntary retirement’, meaning that people would have preferred to work longer than they actually did, as well as a somewhat lower amount of ‘involuntary work’, but the preferred ages are everywhere below 65, and in some countries still below 60. Finally, the paper examines the policies of raising the retirement age adopted during the last two decades. What has especially been lacking in these policies is a consideration of socially differentiated longevity.


retirement; life expectancy; inequality; pension preferences; pension policies

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