This is how long people across Europe can expect to work – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article is brought to you through The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Simon Read, Senior Writer, Training Content


  • Working lives are getting longer, with Europeans now expecting to spend an average of 36 years in the workplace.
  • The years spent in work vary from country to country, with the Dutch on average having longer careers than workers in other parts of the European Union.
  • Longer life and demographic changes are forcing managers and employees to think differently about retirement age.

Whether you love your job or dream of retiring, most of us want to know how long our working lives will last. The next generation of Europeans is expected to work for 36 years on average, although there are big differences between countries.

Working life in Europe has been getting longer since 2001, according to the European Commission’s data service Eurostat. They first declined slightly in 2020 due to COVID-19, but are now at pre-pandemic levels.

The average figure of 36 is based on future workers in the European Union (EU) who were 15 in 2021. But some of these teenagers are likely to work much longer.

Chart showing expected length of working life in 2021. Image: Eurostat

The Dutch will work there the longest, with an average of 42.5 years of work ahead of them. Workers in Sweden (42.3 years) and Denmark (40.3 years) can also expect long careers.

Romanians have the shortest working life in the EU, with an average of 31.3 years. Italians (31.6) and Greeks (32.9) are also expected to spend less time at work.

Gender gap: the difference between the working lives of men and women

In most EU countries, men are likely to work longer than women, with an average of 38.2 years for men and 33.7 years for women. The gap between the sexes is however narrowing: in 2001, it was 7 years: the latest data predict that it will only be 4.5 years on average.

Lithuania is the only EU country to reverse the trend, with women working 1.3 years longer than men. The largest gap is in Italy, where men are expected to work an average of 9.1 years longer than women.

Closing the gender gap: Malta is the country where the difference between the working lives of men and women has changed the most. Image: Eurostat

Malta is the country where the gap between the professional lives of men and women has changed the most: in 2001, women worked 22.3 years less than men: this figure has now been reduced to 8.4 years.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress in closing gender gaps at the national level. To turn this information into concrete actions and national progress, we have developed the Gender Parity Accelerator model for public-private collaboration.

These accelerators were convened in twelve countries from three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Japan. and Kazakhstan in Asia.

All National Accelerators, as well as Knowledge Partner countries demonstrating global leadership in closing gender gaps, are part of a larger ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, which facilitates the exchange of ideas and knowledge. experiences via the Forum platform.

In these countries, CEOs and ministers work together over a three-year period on policies that help to further reduce the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized child care, and more gender-inclusive recruitment, retention, and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Gender Accelerator countries, you can join the local member base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we do not currently have a Gender Parity Accelerator, you can contact us to explore the possibilities of creating one.

But overall, Europeans are likely to spend more of their lives in the workplace – and this will be true in other parts of the world as well. Changing demographics are forcing employers and employees to rethink when it’s desirable – even possible – to retire.

An aging world population

As people live longer, many will want to continue working well beyond the conventional retirement age. Others – whose pensions might not expand to support a longer retirement – ​​might be forced to put in more years.

Europe’s transformation into an aging society is accelerating due to population decline, according to United Nations figures. This could have a big economic impact.

Charles Goodhart, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, told the Financial Times that in countries with shrinking populations: “unless you get a miracle of productivity, overall economic growth will drop”.

China’s demographic challenge

China is also grappling with major demographic shifts, with the population set to fall, according to projections by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. As in Europe, the balance between the population of working age and those over 65 is changing.

While there are now 100 people of working age in China to support 20 elderly people, by the end of this century the same number of workers will need to support 120 elderly Chinese people.

Globally, the number of over-65s will double by 2050, a transformation that could see many of us adding years to our working lives, as is already the case in most European countries. . But the older population will bring changes far beyond the world of work, making it essential that we let go of outdated beliefs and stereotypes about aging and prepare to make the most of the opportunities we all hope will come. a longer life will bring.