Efforts by policy makers to stop the trend towards early retirement in the EU and keep workers in their jobs longer appear to be having an effect.


The EU activity rate (proportion of people in employment or actively looking for employment) has been increasing for years and is particularly noticeable in people aged above 55. This was reported in the EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review which was published by the Commission on 12 April 2016. The EU activity rate for the 15 to 64 age group was just under 73% (in Germany it is more than 77%). According to the Commission, the data for the age group 55 to 59 barely differed from the overall figures, and the activity rate of people aged 60 to 64 is now almost the same as people aged 15 to 24. The activity rate has risen sharply among 55 to 64 year-olds since 2008, by around 10%.  

Activity rates vary significantly between EU countries. Sweden has the highest rate with more than 80%, followed by the Netherlands and Denmark with close to 80%. At the other end of the scale is Italy with less than 65%, just below Belgium, Romania, Croatia and Greece with around 67%. There are also significant differences in terms of unemployment and employment rates. The average EU employment rate has returned to its pre-crises level and ranges from 55% in Greece to 80% in Germany, Sweden and Estonia. Compared to its peak in April 2013, unemployment figures have dropped by 4.9 million people; however, this is still 5 million more unemployed people than in March 2008, and the proportion of people in part-time employment is steadily increasing.  


The report does not give reasons for why older workers are staying longer in the workforce or whether this is voluntary or not. It is also not clear how many are looking for work and how many actually hold a job.