The long-term life expectancy of
65-year-olds in Germany has risen continuously since reunification. Back in
2018/2020, it was 17.9 years for men, which is a good 3.5 years higher than in
1991/1993. Back in 2018/2020 it was 21.1 years for women and this has now
increased by a good 3 years over this period. These values refer to the average
number of people within a peer group. However, there are significant
differences within a group. Employment that is highly stressful for health or
has a low income as well as a low level of education are generally associated
with a lower life expectancies.
Differences are particularly pronounced among men
In a study commissioned by the German Social Association, the German Institute for
Economic Research examined the inequality in life expectancies between relevant
socio-economic groups using the Socio-Economic Panels (SOEP). It focused on the
systematic differences in life expectancies based on income, occupational
status and health stress.
The empirical results show that the longer
life expectancy of 65-year-old men differs considerably and significantly by
income, occupational status and health stress. For example, men aged 65 with a
low occupational health stress (based on their last job) have a life expectancy
of just under 20 years. This drops to around 16 years if the health stress at
work was high.
The differences for women are similar in
terms of structure, but are significantly lower. The estimated life expectancy
of women with low occupational stress is only about two years higher than that
of women with occupations that have a high health stress. The average life
expectancy is longer than that of men in all occupational stress groups.
These German results concur with those from
a large number of international studies. A lower social status or stressful
working conditions have a significant impact on life expectancy. This
correlation is more pronounced in men than in women.
Groups with different life expectancies are being affected differently by the pension reform proposals.
When interpreting the results, it must be
borne in mind that the influencing factors that were considered were all
closely interrelated. Therefore the authors of the study point out that causal
relationships cannot be mapped. For example, education affects income as well
as health-related behaviour and life expectancy through various channels. Poor
health can also have repercussions on income. Therefore opportunities and risks
seem to cumulate at the individual level, i.e. people with higher education are
often found in higher income positions and presumably in less stressful working
conditions as well.
However, the authors emphasised that the
study made it possible to identify population groups with below or
above-average life expectancies and to assess the distributional effect of the
pension reform proposals. Groups with different life expectancies are being
affected differently by the reforms. According to this, the increase in the
standard retirement age is not distribution-neutral, but is disproportionately
burdening the groups with systematically lower longer life expectancies. Their
pension payments are also being reduced by an above-average percentage due to
the shorter pension phase.
The EC's Green
Paper on Ageing"*" also
addresses the issue of raising the retirement age. Its adjustment to the
development of life expectancy is the core proposal for financially stabilising
the old-age security systems. However, those groups in Europe with a low social
status or those exposed to high health stress at work are bearing most of the
social burden of the ageing of society.