An International Comparison of Retirement and Late-Career Patterns in Western Industrialized Countries
Chapter 1: Introduction: The ‘Two-faced Pension Crisis’
In many European countries, the debate about the future sustainability of pensions has come to dominate the public, political and scientific discourse. By the year 2004, around two-thirds of all Europeans (61 percent in the EU-15 countries) considered demographic aging to be a ‘major problem’, and a slightly higher proportion (72 percent) indicated a lack of confidence in the future of contemporary pension systems (Frommert et al. 2009). At the same time, a number of EU, OECD and World Bank studies were recently published that aimed to find a solution to the pressing question of how to build up socially adequate and at the same time long-term sustainable pension systems (e.g. Carone et al. 2005; European Commission 2003a, 2006; OECD 1998a, 2000d, 2003a; World Bank 1994). In fact, many modern societies in the Western hemisphere are nowadays confronted with a two-faced ‘pension problem’ (Auer and Fortuny 2000) or even ‘pension crisis’ (Ebbinghaus and Schulze 2007: 277f.; World Bank 1994). First, many European countries have experienced a trend towards rising life expectancy in recent decades. While in 1970 a newborn child in Europe had an average life expectancy of 71 years, this figure had risen to 79 years by 2005, though with considerable cross-national variations between the core EU countries and the post-socialist accession states. At the same time, birth rates have declined considerably. While the average (period) total fertility rate (TFR) was around 2.4 children per European woman in the 1970s, it declined to values around 1.5 in the mid-1990s,...