FACTAGE event - 26 April in Brussels

Posted: 1 May, 2017

FACTAGE event - 26 April in Brussels

Are longer working lives for all? Exploring Emerging inequalities

FACTAGE project event in Brussels, April 2017, Longer Working Lives On 26 April the FACTAGE conference Are longer working lives for all? Exploring Emerging inequalities took take place at CEPS in Brussels.

The event covered presentations of initial findings from the project as well as presentations from external academics and researchers.

Below is a short summary of each of the four sessions.

Morning sessions
Session 1: Fundamental inequalities: health and mortality

FACTAGE project event in Brussels, April 2017, Longer Working Lives Amaia Bacigalupe from the University of the Basque Country opened the session with a presentation on socio-economic inequalities in both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, arguing that both could have strong implications for the redistributive properties of current pension systems. She reviewed 30 published scientific studies on the topic and concluded that low educated individuals have a lower life expectancy and a lower healthy life expectancy when entering into retirement. An increase of retirement age could therefore deepen the redistribution of wealth from lower to higher socioeconomic groups.

Her presentation was followed by an assessment of the technical challenges in measuring mortality differences across socio-economic groups. Tobias Göllner and Johannes Klotz from Statistics Austria focused on the EU-SILC user database. While acknowledging that the survey can be used for comparative mortality studies, they identified four main missing components: First, not all EU countries are included in the database. Second, individuals above the age of 80 are grouped into an “80+” category in the data, making detailed comparisons at the top end of the age spectrum impossible. Third, mortality data by month would allow for more accurate analysis than the currently available quarterly data. Finally, validity of analyses could be increases by linking EU-SILC data to national mortality registers.

In the last presentation of the session, Lars Ludolph from CEPS focused on recent trends in socio-economic inequalities in health across European countries for individuals aged between 50 and 85. Based on data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, he presented a health index constructed from a weighted average of responses to 22 questions on the physical health of surveyed individuals. His analyses showed that over the observation period from 2004 to 2015, the health status of low and highly educated Europeans improved to the same extent across the entire age range. Thus, while inequalities in health persist among the 50 to 85 year olds, they did not widen over the last decade. However, he stressed that these findings are not homogenous across European countries.

Session 2: Late for work? Older workers on the labour market

Andreas Cebulla from NIESR stressed the importance of the household perspective in retirement decisions and well-being. Based on data from the European Social Survey 2010 he presented descriptive weighted statistics on the association between retirement/non-retirement, on the one hand, and inequality in relationships and happiness, on the other. Respondents were stratified according to the effective retirement age (ERA) in each country as working or retired before or after the ERA (using a 5-year age range). The study showed that unequal divisions of household labour in the pre-ERA group prevailed amongst those working after reaching the ERA, but became more equal in retirement. The presentation also accounted for the perception of unfairness and how any tolerance of unfairness is related to general societal conditions. Besides health and wealth, happiness is also influenced by income inequality within a household. A caveat in this respect is discontinuity of some questions in the European Social Survey.

Hans Dubois from Eurofound then presented a comprehensive analysis of part-time retirement programs in Europe. The pros and cons of part-time retirement were discussed both from an individual and a societal perspective. A general finding is that individual variation in health status, care responsibilities and financial needs influences the attractiveness of part-time retirement. Considering country-specific programs, the landscape is very heterogeneous in terms of financial incentives, levels of public information and take-up rates. Although part-time retirement may be a good choice for some people, it is not an option for others and could come with unnecessary public spending for certain groups. A recommendation given was individual mid-career reviews aiming at helping workers in making optimal decisions on their individual transition from employment to retirement.

Afternoon sessions

FACTAGE project research

The first session included two presentations on the topic of skills utilisation among older workers. The presentations by Markus Bönisch from Statistics Austria identified different types of skill over- and under-utilisation among older workers across a number of European countries using data from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) dataset. These mismatches were typically, but not always, found to be associated with an income premium (over-utilisation) or penalty (under-utilisation)

In his presentation, David Wilkinson from the Institute of Education at University College London used data from the British Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) to highlight evidence of an ageing UK workforce, coinciding with a greater propensity of older workers to report higher skills than required for their job, in particular in businesses with a typically older workforce. This skills mismatch appears to have an adverse effect on workplace performance, but primarily in businesses with fewer older workers.

The second afternoon session asked when older people may decide to retire and how these decisions are embedded in a historically changing labour market context.

Moritz Hess from the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Dortmund, Germany, demonstrated shifting preferences for retirement ages in Europe, using data form the Eurobarometer and European Social Survey. In the absence of data on actual retirement, these preferences provided the best available evidence of the likely effect of changes in national retirement and pension policies on actual behaviour. Moritz Hess’s work suggests these effects are socially uneven and inequitable.

Charlotte Fechter, researcher at the Institute of Social Science/ Section Economics at the University of Koblenz-Landau (Germany) presented data illustrating changes in labour market activities among older workers in Europe, including evidence of more precarious employment conditions. The presentation also discussed how different push and pull factors affected labour market exits, and is intended to inform further study of the risk of employment precarity among older workers.