Review of themed conference ‘Part-time pensions and working longer’

“Part-time pensions are not a participation booster but they do remove concerns about carrying on working”

Two-thirds of senior employees are confronted with chronic health issues diagnosed by a doctor, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or sleeping problems. Although these problems do not immediately lead to an incapacity for work, they do raise concerns when it comes to working longer. Can part-time pension offer a possible solution in terms of striking a balance between continued participation in the labor force by the over 60s and ensuring that people in this group are able to keep working? On 17 October 2019, Netspar and NIDI organized the themed conference entitled ‘part-time pensions and working longer’, during which the opportunities and obstacles for part-time pensions were discussed on the basis of the latest scientific insights.

“Part-time pension should not be seen as a participation booster,” were the opening words of Daniël van Vuuren (Tilburg University and De Argumentenfabriek). “Research has shown that part-time pension tends not to be used as a way to carry on working but as a way to stop working earlier. This effect will increase as the basic retirement age rises.” Currently, 40% of the Dutch population says it is interested in part-time pensions. Future studies are needed to identify which actuarial/financial parameters make part-time pensions more appealing. The effect on public finances will also be studied; if more people start working part-time, this will be reflected in tax revenues.

Standards
The NIDI Pension Panel, consisting of more than 5,200 persons over the age of 60, is mostly positive about part-time pensions, Kène Henkens of NIDI explained. However, there are obstacles too, that cause only one in ten employees make use of part-time pension. Some of these are institutional; a part-time pension is seen as an expensive measure (as too expensive by some) and many people struggle to understand the rules that apply. Organizations also stand in the way: four in ten respondents say that there are obstacles in the workplace. Also: part-time pension is not something that is often discussed. As people have few immediate examples and part-time pensions are, therefore, not a standard, hardly anyone makes use of them. If such examples were to become available, the interest would rise substantially.

Useful
While employers consider part-time pension a useful tool to encourage employees to carry on working, it is not something they actively promote, as Harry van Dalen (NIDI and TiU) pointed out. Again, institutional factors are the root cause: employers suspect complicated rules and financial consequences prevent employees from to make use of part-time pension. In contrast to employees, obstacles in the workplace (stress does not decrease, in some positions it is not possible) weigh much less in the eyes of the employer. Also, employers consider part-time pensions a private matter, one in which they would rather not get involved.

Reassurance
Part-time pension may not be a miracle cure for participation in the labor force, but it does help reduce concerns about the ability to physically and mentally keep up with the job. This is demonstrated by the results of a study conducted by Hanna van Solinge (NIDI) into vitality, concerns and stress among older employees. Employees who have opted for a part-time pension feel slightly more vigorous than those who have not. The work-related stress experienced by employees does not seem to be reduced by part-time pension.

Ongoing research
The themed conference ‘Part-time pensions and working longer’ formed the start of the Netspar research project ‘The causes and consequences of retirement; a sociological perspective’. Many of the results presented on 17 October are therefore preliminary.

Locatie: Tilburg University Seminar Room K834 Warandelan 2 5037 AB Tilburg

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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