Review of Political Economy, vol. 21, 2009, p. 515-536
During the 20th century, pensions in developed countries were generally payable from a statutory retirement age which provided a norm for retirement behaviour and a threshold for dividing older from younger age groups. Governments, by setting fixed starting dates for work and retirement, created a standardised life cycle with clearly delineated boundaries between education, work and retirement stages. Over the last 30 years, retirement behaviour has diverged from official norms and moved towards earlier retirement, although pressures for later retirement are now increasing due to concerns about pension financing and population ageing. This paper assesses current trends, asking whether they do indicate major changes in the life cycle, and considers the flexibility of retirement, paying particular attention to the influence of government and employers.