Longer working careers and sustainable work: the issue of social inequality

Christophe Vanroelen
Christophe Vanroelen, assistant professor of sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

In the past decade almost all European countries have taken policy measures aiming at prolonging working careers. These measures have consisted of delaying the legal retirement age, discouraging early exit from the labour force and giving incentives for workers to stay longer in employment (even after the retirement). All these reforms have the clear objective of increasing the employment rates, especially in older age groups.

While these measures make sense given the on average higher life expectancy and better health of most citizens, the issue of equity is largely absent from the debate. Nevertheless, in most European countries important socio-economic differences in (healthy) life expectancy persist. These inequalities are in part related to the differential exposure to a complex but increasingly diffuse set of health-affecting working conditions throughout workers' careers.

In this presentation, I will use current debates with regard to pension reform in Belgium, to reflect on current challenges related to creating sustainable careers and equitable retirement schemes across the socio-economic ladder.