Healthy, Happy and Idle: Estimating the Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages in Germany
After two decades of reforms that have tightened eligibility for early retirement and the generosity of social security payments, the German government has begun to turn back time and re-introduce more generous disability and early retirement benefits. Often, poor health is cited as the main reason why workers cannot work until the regular retirement age. In this chapter, we try to answer a seemingly simple question: what is the proportion of older individuals who could work in the labor market if they wanted to and if they were not limited by poor health? To answer this question, we follow two different empirical approaches with a similar logic: we estimate the link between health and labor force participation in a population whose employment patterns are or were hardly affected by the current (early) retirement incentives. Using these “pure health effects” on labor force participation to extrapolate to a population that is currently strongly affected by legislation informs us how many could not work for health reasons and how many could work. We find substantial capacity to work among the older population. We estimate that two thirds of the population would be capable of working in the labor market until they turn 70 if they wanted to.
This paper uses data from SHARE Wave 5 release 1.0.0, as of March 31st 2015 (DOI: 10.6103/SHARE. w5.100) or SHARE Wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of March 28th 2013 (DOI: 10.6103/SHARE.w4.111) or SHARE Waves 1 and 2 release 2.6.0, as of November 29th 2013 (DOI: 10.6103/SHARE.w1.260 and 10.6103/SHARE.w2.260) or SHARELIFE release 1.0.0, as of November 24th 2010 (DOI: 10.6103/ SHARE.w3.100). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5- CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, N° 211909, SHARE-LEAP, N° 227822 and SHARE M4, N° 261982). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11 and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions). The Microcensus data were provided by the Research Data Centers of the Federal Statistical Office and the Statistical Offices of the Länder in Düsseldorf, Germany, analyzed on-site (further information: http://www.forschungsdatenzentrum.de/en/). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Healthy, Happy, and Idle: Estimating the Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages in Germany, Hendrik Jürges, Lars Thiel, Axel Börsch-Supan. in Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, Wise. 2017