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Young people wish to retire earlier than the over-55s


If employees over 55 could choose, they would prefer to retire at the age of 64. Employees under 35 would like to retire nine years earlier still at the age of 55. The preferred retirement age does vary from country to country. Higher earnings or working fewer hours motivate employees most when it comes to continuing to work beyond the legal retirement age. These are some of the conclusions drawn from a survey of 5,000 employees in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom conducted by HR and payroll services provider SD Worx.

Young people see 55 as the perfect retirement age

SD Worx asked 5,000 European employees about their preferred retirement age. The over-55s' ideal retirement age is considerably higher than that of employees aged between 18 and 34. This is the case in all the countries surveyed. French over-55s prefer to retire at 62, Belgian over-55s at 63, their British and Germans counterparts at 65 and their Dutch peers at 66. On average, self-employed people over 55 who employ staff wish to continue working the longest, up to the age of 68, which is four years longer than the people they employ.

There is a striking difference with younger people: young self-employed people aged between 18 and 34 usually wish to retire the earliest: at 47 with the outliers being Germany (average at 40) and France (average 52). Young salaried employees too wish for the same thing. For example, Belgian employees aged between 18 and 34 see 57 as the ideal retirement age. The perceived ideal retirement age is even lower for this age group in France (55), the UK (54) and Germany (52). However, young Dutch people wish to work significantly longer: up to the age of 60. The legal retirement age in Belgium and Germany is currently 65. In France it’s 62, in the UK and the Netherlands, it is 66. 

"It is quite remarkable that there is such a difference in the preferred retirement age between young employees and over-55s. This can probably be explained by the stage of life they are at. The results also show that people in all age categories would prefer to retire before they reach the legal retirement age. This creates an area of tension if we wish to keep social security affordable. A sustainable career and HR policy is crucial in this regard with a focus on engagement, development, internal mobility, employability and wellbeing ", says Cathy Geerts, Chief HR Officer at SD Worx.

A higher salary turns out to be the biggest driver for staying on longer

Overall, the greatest motivation for continuing to work after the legal retirement age is a higher salary: an average of 36% of all surveyed employees indicate that a higher salary would persuade them not to retire just yet. The second most prevalent reason is fewer working hours: 31% say that that would convince them to stay in work for longer. The actual content of the work is reason number three: one in five employees (21%) indicates that the employee would work beyond the legal retirement age if the job content became more interesting or meaningful.

However, the reasons are not the same in all countries and there are also differences between the different age groups, although we did notice some overall trends. Almost half of all employees aged between 25 and 34 in Belgium (48%) and France (51%) would continue to work for a higher salary. In the UK (54%) and the Netherlands (35%), it is mainly the youngest group (18-24 years) which is motivated by this. A higher salary remains an important factor across the various age groups, but this does diminish with age. Fewer working hours is more important to the younger age groups than the over-55s. The same trend can be seen in terms of content: the younger the employees, the more they can be persuaded to stay on for longer with more interesting and meaningful work.

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    "The over-55s group is very much split down the middle: in all countries except Germany, many over-55s indicate that they would not mind working beyond the legal retirement age (on average 18%), but that age group also has the highest percentage of people who say that nothing could make them stay in work for longer (on average 29%)", Cathy Geerts says.

    Young employees experience more stress

    We also clearly see that over-55s more often feel energetic at work than their younger counterparts aged 18 to 24. Almost half of the older target group (49%) report that very often they are brimming with energy. This percentage is lower in young people (24%). One in five (20%) over-55s also reports feeling fit and healthy at work every day, compared to 12% of younger employees (aged 18 to 24). This may be due to how the work is perceived. More than one in three employees (36%) in the 18-24 age group often finds their work very demanding mentally. From the age of 55, this percentage falls to 29%.


      "We have noticed that employees in the older age groups feel more comfortable, fit and energetic in the workplace because they are more familiar with their job responsibilities. On the whole, their years of experience make them less worried and more in control of their jobs. Their lives also tend to be more stable than those of young employees who are starting their careers and experience more stress with regard to their work-life balance or financial situation. It is up to the employer to check regularly how the employees are feeling and to take action immediately as and when required", Cathy Geerts at SD Worx, says.