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How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public

How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public

Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Staffan Kumlin and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen

Staffan Kumlin and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen bring together political scientists and sociologists from different and frequently separated research communities to examine policy feedback in European welfare states. In doing so, they offer a rich menu of different methodological approaches. The book demonstrates how long-term policy legacies and short-term policy change affect the public, but also shows that such processes are contingent on individual characteristics and political context.

Chapter 11: Raising the retirement age: retrenchment, feedback and attitudes

Elias Naumann

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


Life expectancy in western societies is increasing. A man of pensionable age living in an OECD country is expected to live, on average, a further18.5 years ñ compared to 16.2 years 20 years ago (OECD 2011). With increasing life expectancy people spend more time in retirement, provided the retirement age remains unchanged. As ageing populations challenge the sustainability of the pension system, an increase in the retirement age seems to be an inevitable reform alternative (OECD 2011). This step is however frequently met with great resistance. In this chapter I examine if and how attitudes towards increasing the retirement age have changed in recent years. Is the opposition to reform crumbling with rising reform pressures? And what are the effects of a reform that changes the legal retirement age? Moreover, do groups within societies react to these developments differently, and do we thus find increasing conflicts, for example between social classes? Or can we perhaps observe the emergence of new conflict lines, for example between the old and the young?

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