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Flexible retirement age is no cure-all

A flexible retirement age is meant to result in people working longer. A study from the ZHAW School of Health Professions shows that that isn't the case.

In light of increasing financial pressure on retirement provisions, introducing a flexible retirement age has become more important in the political debate about pensions. The flexible retirement age is a part of Switzerland’s Old-Age and Survivors' Insurance reform (OASI 21) and is meant to result in Swiss people working longer. However, a study from the ZHAW School of Health Professions shows that a flexible retirement age does not automatically have the expected effect. “People won’t necessarily extend their working lives,” says Isabel Baumann, who heads the study. She analysed how the transition to retirement tends to occur in four countries with flexible retirement policies. The outcome of the study revealed that almost two-thirds of the approximately 2,500 people surveyed retired between their early and mid-sixties.

Fewer benefits and later retirement

The study also revealed differences between Chile, the USA, Denmark and Sweden, depending on the type of retirement provision system they had. Compared to the Scandinavian countries with their generous and comprehensive benefits, people tend to retire later in the liberal-oriented USA and Chile, where pension benefits are relatively low. “This should be kept in mind when discussing the introduction of a flexible retirement age. Different approaches are needed to encourage people to stay in the labour market. More attractive working conditions for older employees would be one possibility,” says Isabel Baumann.