U.S. Seniors Are a Hard-Working Bunch

July 17, 2013 at 9:20 am

Financial pressures are leading many European Union (EU) countries to encourage older workers to remain in the labor force, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reports.  By way of comparison, U.S. seniors are more likely to be in the workforce than their peers in almost every other developed country.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans ages 65 through 69 were employed in 2012.  That’s about three times the European average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (see chart).

Among large, highly developed countries worldwide, only a few had more than 20 percent of their 65- to 69-year-olds on the job, and only Japan and Korea topped the U.S. figure.

Elsewhere we’ve noted that our Social Security system pays pretty modest benefits compared with other advanced nations.  And Social Security already has a number of money-saving provisions that European nations are moving to emulate, such as an early-retirement age  that’s higher than many other countries’ (62), lower benefits for people who take early retirement, a high and rising age for full benefits (66, soon to be 67), and a bonus for people who delay retirement.

The moral?  Our seniors already work harder and get lower benefits than their counterparts in most other rich countries.  So imposing big benefit cuts on ordinary seniors would be the wrong way to restore Social Security solvency.

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More About Kathy Ruffing

Kathy Ruffing

Kathy Ruffing is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, specializing in federal budget issues.

Full bio | Blog Archive | Research archive at CBPP.org

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

Comments are listed in reverse chronological order.

  1. 1

    Hi Kathy, this is an eye-opening statistic “Nearly 30 percent of Americans ages 65 through 69 were employed in 2012. That’s about three times the European average.” I wonder how this trend will continue as more baby boomers reach the age of 65 everyday?

    • Kathy Ruffing #

      Thanks for your interest in our work. You ask a good question. The labor-force participation of U.S. seniors has risen quite dramatically over the last two decades, though it’s not clear whether that’ll continue. You can find a good overview at http://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/EBRI_Notes_04_Apr-14_LbrPart.pdf.

  2. 3

    Where is Switzerland?

    • Kathy Ruffing #

      “We didn’t show data for all countries in our graph, but you can find more in the OECD page that we linked. However, there were no data for Swiss workers age 65-69.”

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