Is it bad to retire early?

Ergonomist about retirementBaby boomers want to retire earlier

Carsten Schroeder: Gradually the extension of the working life becomes noticeable for everyone. Anyone who wants to retire these days because they have reached retirement age was born in 1954 and is now 65 years and eight months old. The working life will be extended step by step until it will be 67 in 2031 for those born after 1964. This decision became politically necessary because the Germans are getting older and the care of the older generation is correspondingly more expensive. This is reinforced by the baby boomers, the so-called baby boomers, who were mainly born between 1955 and 1969 and will soon be retiring. But if you ask around, it seems that a large proportion of the employees do not want to wait that long. So does everything work as demographic statisticians and politicians imagined? It's high time to take a look at the latest developments. One who has been doing this for years is Professor Hans Martin Hasselhorn, ergonomist at the University of Wuppertal, who and his research team have been accompanying the so-called baby boomers for eight years. He's on the phone now. Good evening, Professor Hasselhorn!

Hans Martin Hasselhorn: Yes, good evening!

Schroeder: How do the baby boomers, who are currently still in full employment, think about extending their working lives?

Hasselhorn: Well, they would prefer not to work as long as the state imagines, that's for sure.

90 percent of baby boomers want to retire earlier

Schroeder: You investigated that. Can you quantify that a bit?

Hasselhorn: We examined this in the Lida study, so we are tracking the employees of the age group 59 and 65 who are subject to social insurance contributions over the next few years, hopefully into retirement, and we can determine that today - survey data from 2018 - only one in ten actually wants to work until his or her own individual statutory retirement age.

Schroeder: Does that mean, conversely, that a clear majority of 90 percent want to quit earlier?

Hasselhorn: That is correct, and it is surprising insofar as three quarters are fully committed to their working life and are also very satisfied with their working life.

"One is wanting and the other is doing"

Schroeder: Are those who stop earlier now, are they the ones who can retire at 63 without deductions after 45 years of pension payments, or are they also people who have to reckon with deductions?

Hasselhorn: One thing is wanting and the other is doing. That means what we find interesting is that there are all sorts of groups, not just those that we can assume that they have already been employed for a very long time, But there are also those who have spent many years in training and only then went into professional life, including academics, for example, who, for example, would like to leave working life earlier, but of course not in as high a percentage as, for example, the Workers is the case.

Decision Factors for Early Retirement

Schroeder: But for them it is, if they do not come to the 45 year pension payment, so to speak, for them it is associated with noticeable cuts in the amount of the pension. For what reasons do the baby boomers want to accept that anyway?

Hasselhorn: We take the hypothesis that there is never a single reason, not even for example health as a single reason why people want to quit working life prematurely, but there will always be a number of different reasons that together lead to the People want to quit working life sooner or later. On the one hand, of course, there is the social background and also the nature of the social background, which is very important. And a very strong influencing factor is what my environment thinks about it, so if my environment has the attitude to quit working life earlier, then I would like to do so with twice the probability. Or then of course the private conditions: This is not just a care obligation, the question is of course if I have a partner, then I am more inclined to quit earlier, for example, and if the partner is no longer gainfully employed, then of course even more. So this is the private environment. But then of course the work also plays a role, the working conditions, and of course the fit, do I still fit my work, can I actually still do my work? We call this the ability to work, i.e. one's own ability to work also plays a decisive role, as does health, which in turn also plays a role in the ability to work. But we can also say that there are many people in poor health who still want to work longer. At the same time, it is the case that people in good health and good work ability - there, too, only 17 percent actually say that they want to work until their statutory retirement age. That is, these factors alone cannot explain why there are so few people who want to work for so long.

Schroeder: Can you characterize certain occupational groups that are particularly likely to seek early retirement or, conversely, groups that want to remain gainfully employed for as long as possible?

Hasselhorn: Well, we once put it together for the health and social professions, and it is the case that the doctors, which is hardly surprising, with the doctors there are more people who want to work longer, while with the nursing staff and by the way in childcare, in these occupational groups, motivation to work is particularly low.

"People like to work, three quarters are satisfied with their work"

Schroeder: Actually, the extension of the working life was intended in such a way that people work longer and pay longer into the pension funds. Now you realize: the opposite is the case. Is the system likely to overturn?

Hasselhorn: We do not find the opposite to be the case. We actually notice a certain amount of schizophrenia. On the one hand, we know that people like to work, three quarters of those in employment are satisfied with their work and say that work means a lot to me. That is actually quite a lot. And at the same time, almost everyone says: I don't want to work until the statutory retirement age. But the question is: what will come? How long will you actually work? Of course, we hope to find out in the coming years, because we want to continue to follow these cohorts until they retire.

Schroeder: What does that mean for society, Professor Hasselhorn?

Hasselhorn: So I think it means different things to different groups when we look at the baby boomers. Some of the baby boomers want to work longer anyway, and then there is a group that, according to today's criteria, would like to quit earlier, but will change their minds the closer they get to retirement age. So they'll want to work longer. And then there are those who actually wanted to get out for health or motivation reasons, for example, but who now grit their teeth and simply have to continue to be gainfully employed. And we want to pay special attention to this group in the coming years. And then there will be a group that leaves unnecessarily early, that could actually continue to work well, but because the environment or because other factors simply suggest that you get out early, like everyone else who does. And of course that would be a great shame for individuals, for companies and of course for the economy as well.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.