Author: Kurt Vogler-Ludwig

Publisher: Study on behalf of the European Commission, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities

Year: 2009

Language: English

Research aims: With this study the EU Commission seeks to investigate the duration of working life indicator (DWL) which should complement the monitoring instruments of the European Employment Strategy by focussing on the entire life cycle of active persons and persons in employment.

The study suggests three indicators for the measurement of the DWL:

·            duration of active working life indicator based on average annual activity rates

·            duration of employment indicator based on average employment rates

·            duration of working time indicator based on annual working hours

All three indicators have their counterparts in the form of the duration of non-active working life, the duration of non-employment, and the duration of non-working time. They are calculated for the time period 2000 to 2007, and are separated by 27 EU countries, the age span from 15 to 100 years old and the two genders.

Results: In 2007 the average EU27 person aged 15 could expect 34.2 active years during lifetime, and 31.8 years of employment with a working time of 61,295 hours in total. For the 45 years old, the duration of active working life was 13.2 years and 0.8 years at the age of 65. Since 2000 an increase of one year can be observed, which mainly happened after 2004.

The duration of active working life for males aged 15 was 6.4 years longer than for females (a difference of 20%). For females however the duration of active working life increased more rapidly since 2000 (+1.6 years compared to 0.5 years for males).

The longest active working life could be measured for the Swedish population, where a 15 year old person could be expected to work for 39.9 years. Denmark and the Netherlands were close to these values. At the shorter end were Italy, Hungary and Malta with duration under 30 years. This is a difference of 11.1 years between Malta and Sweden. 

Assessment of indicators: The DWL indicators provide sufficiently accurate and easily understandable results. They

·            are highly stable over time, even for single ages

·            show great continuity over the lifespan

·            react directly to changes of activity rates and working hours

·            and reveal the expected differences between gender, ages and countries

The LFS database provided a comprehensive and comparable data input for all EU countries and the subgroups of its population. This also holds for the inclusion of working hours. The country profiles of different working life indicators correlate with average levels of activity rates, the exit age, or unemployment rates. Limitations appear as the indicators are descriptions of the whole lifecycle rather than specific periods of working life. Moreover, they describe the present state of working life participation over all ages rather than providing a forecast of future working life.

Recommendations:Based on the positive assessment of the indicators, the study recommends using the DWL indicator as one of the core labour market indicators at European and national level. Out of the six indicators, the duration of active working life receives a dominating position.

The application of the methodology requires extensive preparatory work to amend the data basis and extend the age span to the maximum of 100 years. It is recommended to apply these methods in order to achieve accurate results.

The calculation of the DWL indicators depends on the availability of life tables for all EU Member States. As soon as such life tables will be available form EUROSTAT, they should be integrated into the calculation system.