Research Group on Aging and the Life Course (FALL)

Research: ! Early exit


Time for retirement: Comparative studies of early exit from the labor force

Funded by the Science Center Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin)


In all developed countries, people have been leaving work at increasingly younger ages - at a time when their life expectancy keeps increasing as well. How has this paradoxical process been brought about? What is the relative impact of labor markets and social policy? And what are the effects of this massive lengthening of retirement?
We analyze these questions based on a comparative assessment of aggregate labor force participation data, and on institutionally grounded case studies of seven countries (Netherlands, France, Germany, U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Hungary). We show how the problems of the labor market have pushed the main actors (the enterprises, the unions and the state) to create institutional pathways of early exit from the labor force by recombining or changing the existing social policy framework. While there remain differences in the extent of early exit, the trend has everywhere moved in the same direction. Thus, in spite of the large variation in welfare institutions, the common labor market problems have lead all countries to adopt functionally similar solutions.


Anne-Marie Guillemard
Herman van Gunsteren
Klaus Jacobs
Martin Kohli
Martin Rein

Main publications

Kohli, Martin, Martin Rein, Anne-Marie Guillemard & Herman van Gunsteren (Eds.) (1991): Time for retirement: Comparative studies of early exit from the labor force. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jacobs, Klaus & Martin Kohli (1990): Der Trend zum frühen Ruhestand: Die Entwicklung der Erwerbsbeteiligung der Älteren im internationalen Vergleich. In: WSI-Mitteilungen, 43, 498-509.

Kohli, Martin (1992): Labor market perspectives and activity patterns of the elderly in an ageing society. In: van den Heuvel, W. et al. (Eds.): Opportunities and challenges in an ageing society. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 90-105.

Kohli, Martin (1994): Work and retirement: A comparative perspective. In: M.W. Riley, R.L. Kahn & A. Foner (Eds.): Age and structural lag: Changes in work, family, retirement, and other structures. New York: Wiley, 80-106.

For additional articles see our list of publications.

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