Touchstone Television / Buena Vista International Television

Women’s Time in Retirement

Around the world, women have become more prevalent in the workforce. They also live longer than men. We wonder: In which developed country do female workers have the longest period of retirement?

A. France
B. Germany
C. United States
D. Japan

A. France is correct.

One way to compare the likely average length of retirement across developed OECD economies is to subtract each country’s average age when employees enter into retirement from its average life expectancy.

By this measure, the average woman in France is likely to have nearly 26 years of retirement – from about age 60 to about age 86 – longer than that of women in any other OECD economy.  Average retirement ages vary widely by country – French women are among the youngest to retire.

The average age of retirement among women living in OECD countries has risen over the past decade and a half.

Many French citizens see the promise of retirement at age 60 as an inalienable right, on par with paid vacation, national health care and the 35-hour work week. Raising the retirement age might further exacerbate the country’s chronic youth unemployment problem.

French women may have the longest average expected time in retirement, but women in Italy are not far behind, at 24 years. Greece’s and Belgium’s women are also nearly two years behind their French counterparts.

B. Germany is not correct.

German women have retirement periods that are about five years shorter than those of French women – 20.52 years. This divergence is due to a combination of slightly shorter lifespans and a slightly older average retirement age.  German women today live a bit longer than the OECD average and retire slightly later in life.

Germany is solidly in the middle of the pack among large industrialized countries — shorter than in Canada (21.58 years) and Spain (21.35 years), but slightly longer than the UK or Ireland (both 20.5 years).

The OECD average for women is to spend 19.59 years in retirement. Women in the 34 developed OECD economies are currently expected to live to be about 83 years old. They retire on average at 61.15 years old.

In 1889, Germany was the first country to institute an old-age social insurance system. The retirement age to receive maximum benefits was initially set at 70 — but was lowered to 65 in 1916.

C. United States is not correct.

Women in the United States have among the shortest average time spent in retirement in the developed world. They wait until age 64.73 on average to retire and live to 81.2 years old. On average, this leaves them with less than 16.5 years of retirement.

As concerns mount in the United States over the solvency of its Social Security system, it is possible that the official U.S. retirement age for maximum benefits may rise in coming years. The legal age for women to retire and receive full benefits is currently the month when they reach age 66.

Some women in the United States find themselves compelled to retire earlier than 66. Early retirement often puts these women in a permanent financial bind that could be worsened if benefits are cut further (including by raising the retirement age).

These phenomena, playing out in other countries as well, highlight a growing dilemma among developed countries. The OECD as an organization argues that poverty among retirees is a mounting risk, even as its member countries are looking to reduce their total pension spending.

Today, about 9% of GDP in the OECD goes to public pension spending, but by 2050 the population over 64 will be about equal to the entire OECD workforce aged 15-64.

D. Japan is not correct.

Despite Japan’s average female life expectancy of 86.6 years — one of the highest in the world — Japan’s women do not spend the longest time in retirement.

This is because the average woman in Japan’s workforce doesn’t actually retire until she reaches 67.61 years of age.  This means that the average Japanese woman spends 18.99 years in retirement — one of the shorter spans in the developed world.  This contrasts with Spanish women’s 23 years of retirement. Spain is the only other country with a life expectancy greater than 86.

In addition to women in the United States, countries with even shorter retirement lengths than Japan’s include Portugal, Turkey, and neighboring South Korea.

Women in South Korea, along with women in Chile, remain in the workforce the longest – beyond age 70. In both countries, this means women are continuing to work on average more than a decade beyond their countries’ respective legal retirement ages.

Mexico is the country in the developed world that has the shortest retirement age for women. In addition, no women in any OECD country have a shorter life expectancy – currently 77.4. Mexican women work until about age 68, leaving them just 9 years of time spent in retirement.

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