Monday, July 23, 2012

Do the Greek retire earlier because of their occupations?

A common complaint within the current acrimonious debate about the Greek debt situation is that the Greek retire much earlier than, say, the Germans. This is considered unfair, and the Greek should not enjoy such privileges. It is, however, a fact that people in different occupations retire at different times, and Greece may simply have a labor force with an occupational compositions that yields a lower retirement age. If this were the case in a magnitude corresponding to the observed differences in average retirement ages, the criticism would not be warranted.

Philip Sauré and Hosny Zoabi look at this in the following way. They take the retirement age by occupation for males in the United States, then apply this to the occupational composition of 28 OECD countries. Looking at the effective average retirement age, it turns of occupational differences can explain about 10% of the cross-country variation. Add in another 10 non-OECD countries, and you explain about 16%. Not huge numbers, but occupational composition matters. Transforming the data to account for category mismatches and the impact of state pension plans, one can explain 28% to 39% of the variation, though.

And, by the way, the effective age of retirement of males is higher in Greece than in Germany.

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