Économie et Statistique n° 355-356 - 2002 Business - Trade - Population Forecasts
Forecasting growth in participation rates for older citizens: a difficult exercise
It is increasingly rare to find the citizens of industrialised countries still working after the age of 55. This decrease in the participation of the oldest individuals is particularly sharp in France, where it is now extremely rare to find over-65s still working. Virtually 70% of French people aged 60 to 64 were in the labour force in 1970. This proportion had fallen to 35% by 1983 and has been stable at around 17% since the mid-1990s. The proportion of men aged 55 to 59 in the labour force has fallen from 83% to 68% in just thirty years. The female trends are not as clear-cut in that the underlying drop in participation rates among older individuals is partially offset by the widespread rise in female participation rates. The development of pension systems partially explains this decrease in participation rates among older individuals. The increase in unemployment observed in many industrialised countries over the last thirty years has sharpened the downturn, especially among older wage earners. Although the deteriorating labour market situation has affected all workers, older employees' jobs are the hardest hit. Since the late 1970s, many of these older employees have stopped working well before they are entitled to a pension. In most of the countries, and especially in France, such early retirement has been encouraged by schemes that provide replacement income through to the retirement age. In France, for example, the number of over-55s who retired early or were granted dispensation from job seeking ranged from 460,000 to 500,000 in the 1990s. So in addition to the effects of economic downturns, which explain the cyclical fluctuations in participation rates, there is an «institutional» drain corresponding to the institutionalisation of early retirement in response to the difficulty of keeping ageing employees in employment. This institutional drain exerts a much more decisive influence on participation rates than the economic downturn.