Economic Progress

Who spends the longest time in retirement?

Man and woman sitting on bench facing sea

Retirement lengths vary around the world, impacted by factors like life expectancy, savings and gender. Image: Unsplash/Matthew Bennett

Andrea Willige
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Ian Shine
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Economic Progress

This article was first published on 19 February 2020 and was updated on 29 March 2023.

  • Retirement lengths vary by country.
  • There are now more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of five.
  • The World Economic Forum says pension savings must be incentivized to ensure better retirement outcomes.

There are now more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of five, a World Economic Forum report has found.

As a result, there are fewer young people to support the growing number of pensioners around the world, requiring many to retire later than they planned

Have you read?

The average expected length for retirement in OECD countries has remained mostly flat in recent years, at around 23 years for women and 19 years for men. Still, lengths can vary widely thanks to factors such as a country's retirement age or life expectancy.

Here is how retirement lengths vary around the world.

Where people are working beyond 65
Retirement ages vary around the world. Image: Statista/OECD

25 years or more

OECD statistics show that Greek and French pensioners spend the longest time in retirement out of all countries in the organization. Greek women get 28.4 years and Greek men 23, while in France, women spend just over 27 years in retirement and men have 23.5 years.

The French government is trying to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62, but the move has led to widespread protests. President Emmanuel Macron says the change is needed to prevent the pension system from falling into deficit, amid falling birth rates and longer life expectancies.

Spain, Austria, Belgium and Italy closely follow France. Female retirees in these countries enjoy retirements of 25 years or more.

20 years or less

South Koreans can expect around five years less of retirement than their French counterparts, with an average of 23.2 years for women and 18.4 for men.

The typical retirement age in Korea is also higher: around 68 years for men and 67 for women. Korea is also expected to have one of the oldest populations among OECD countries. Around half of these workers will be 50 and older by 2050.

At the bottom of the list are Latvia and Mexico. In Latvia, men can expect only 14 years in retirement, while women average 20.1 years. In Mexico, men average 16 years and women 20.6.

A widening gap

Though many will work longer than they plan, longer retirements can’t always bridge retirement savings gaps. Among nations with large populations or sizable retirement savings markets, the gap stood at $70 trillion in 2015 and is poised to grow.

Unless key measures are taken that gap will widen. According to the Forum’s Investing in (and for) our Future 2019 report, that number is forecast to reach $400 trillion by 2050. This is a growing risk not just for individuals, but also for entire nations, the Forum says.

Size of retirements savings gap ($ trillions, 2015)
Size of retirements savings gap ($ trillions, 2015). Image: World Economic Forum, Mercer Analysis

To bridge this gap across the OECD, personal pension savings will be key. The Forum’s report stresses that policy-makers, employers and asset managers need to explore incentivizing contributions and optimize how these monies are invested.

In some countries, such as Singapore, this thinking has led to the creation of special accounts for housing or health care. In other countries, like the UK, age requirements for products such as annuities have been lifted, promoting savings.

These and other creative savings approaches will be key in helping people achieve the best outcomes as retirements shorten and life expectancy lengthens.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Economic ProgressInequalityAgeing and Longevity
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