Work-Retirement Transition Pathways: Reforms Have Major Impact

Press Release of May 7, 2014

Germany's draft bill to improve the benefits provided under the statutory pension insurance scheme (Gesetz über Leistungsverbesserungen in der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherungen) will entitle, in particular, those who have contributed for many years (at least 45) to retire early on a full pension (without any reductions to their pension payments) at the age of 63. The proposed reform is in stark contrast to the pension policies of past decades, even though the German government maintains it has no intention of changing course and still plans to pursue its objective of raising the retirement age. It is not currently possible to predict the effects of a statutory retirement age of 63. What is certain, however, is that statutory work-pension transition options and labor market policy framework conditions will have a significant impact on when people make the transition from working life to retirement. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) analyzed the impact of pension reforms over the last 20 years on the work-retirement transition of those born between 1932 and 1947. The study analyzed the retirement dynamic between 1990 and 2012 based on representative data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP). While official German Pension Insurance statistics primarily provide information on retirement age and type of pension, SOEP allows detailed analyses of developments in the phase leading up to retirement. A cluster analysis was used to identify typical work-retirement transition pathways and to examine the impact of labor market and pension policy framework conditions on the relative significance of these pathways in a comparison of cohorts. A further analysis was conducted to determine how the phase leading up to retirement changes between the ages of 58 and 65 in the cohort comparison. There are typically five pathways that characterize the work-retirement transition: in employment until statutory retirement age, in employment until early retirement, inactivity prior to retirement, unemployment prior to retirement, and early retirement or reduced earnings capacity pension. The work-retirement transition behavior of eastern and western Germans differs significantly. Findings clearly show that when options for early retirement exist, they are also used.
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