Can We Really (All) Work Longer?
Trends in Healthy Life Expectancy According to Social Stratum in Germany

Rainer Unger, Alexander Schulze


Against the background of raising the retirement age to 67 years and the associated lengthening of working lifetimes in higher age groups, this article examines the question of the extent to which this political objective is covered by the health assets of the population. Here, we will first trace trends in “healthy” life expectancy among the total population for different points in time 1989, 1999 and 2009 on the basis of the data from the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) and analyse these against the background of social strata indicators such as income and educational levels. Among others, one significant result is the fact that social differences have a far greater effect on healthy life expectancy than on general life expectancy and that these differences increase further over the course of time. This effect can be found particularly in men. One mandatory uniform working lifetime for all persons would however not do justice to these findings of socially highly unequally distributed life opportunities. Instead, the findings support a flexible arrangement of retirement age limits.


Healthy life expectancy; Social stratum; Compression of morbidity; Social change; Working lifetime

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