US workers toil as the world retires

Only Korea and Japan have higher percentages of workers ages 65 to 69, but they're rare even in Europe's strongest economies.

By Jason Notte Jul 19, 2013 7:25AM
Chart depicting employment to population ratio for ages 65-69 (Courtesy of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)We've said this before and have no trouble saying it again: You're never going to retire.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently released a chart of employment rates among people ages 65 to 69 around the world, and it shows that 29.9% of Americans of those ages are still employed.

They look like slackers compared with their counterparts in Korea (42.5%) and Japan (37%), but they're also a big mystery to workers in Germany, where only 10% of the population remains in the workforce.

Older U.S. workers aren't exactly in bad company, though. More than 23% of their neighbors to the north are still working beyond typical retirement age, while more than 26% of Norwegians and Australians of similar vintage are still logging hours. It doesn't get much easier in the U.K., where 20% are still working and where McDonald's employs workers as old as 88.

Still, much of Europe provides a problematic comparison when it comes to calling it a career. Spain, Greece and Italy have only 5.2%, 6.8% and 8% of their citizens between 65 and 69 still in the workforce, but continued economic turbulence in those countries calls the wisdom of those rates into question. But Portugal, even with nearly 22% of its older workforce still on the clock, finds itself no better off than the other three.

That gives the European Union's 8.7% average employment rate for workers older than 65 some room for doubt, but it doesn't necessarily explain why the U.S. rate remains so high. After all, France is still one of the EU's economic pillars, with fewer than 6% of its 65-69 crowd continuing to work. In neighboring Belgium, that rate drops to 4.7%, while it sits at 12.7% just north in the Netherlands.

Before you start calling the Europeans loafers and touting the great American work ethic, however, just remember that in better times our employment rates looked just like theirs. Back in 1990, only 12.1% of Americans 65 and older were still working. By 2010, the percentage had jumped to 16.1%. Even among 65-to-69-year-olds, only 21.8% were still employed in 1990.

Americans just don't have the safety net they once did. The Center for Retirement Research says fewer than a third of U.S. workers have a pension, down from 44% in 1995 and 88% in Reagan-era 1983.

It's not getting better for younger generations. The Pew Charitable Trusts says the leading edge of Generation X -- folks born from 1966 to 1975 -- lost about 45% of its wealth during the Great Recession and seriously dimmed its prospects for retirement.

Enjoy permanent employment, America. Apparently, you've earned it.

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Jul 19, 2013 9:02AM
The New World Order so many fail to recognize.  Politicians like to tell the positive side of the story while so many Americans now must live the reality side of the story. It can be no accident we are seeing such a huge drop in older Americans financial security because it has been well planned out and under construction for many years.  The American political system; aided and abetted by the elites, has decided Americans are no longer "good" enough to be a part of the economic success they once held.  Sooo many stupid public educated brainwashed people that are unable to look in their wallet and understand it is empty because the electerds absolutetly want it empty.  They want you hungry and willing to work for much lower wages to satisfy the goal of world control.  Someone needs to draw a picture for naive Americans and then perhaps they will figure it out.  The same hidden agenda is in place economically as with the NSA.  A hidden agenda too many Americans are unable or unwilling to figure out.  
Jul 19, 2013 12:46PM
This situation is caused by our government sending billions around the world to buy friends in countries that hate us anyway.  The people of those countries don't see any of the money, only the corrupt politicians.  Why do it?  Why send taxpayer money overseas to countries such as Pakistan when they hid Bin laden all those years?  Instead of a smiling f ace and a knife in the back, that money could buy Americans health care and retirement.  Other developed countries have those things and we do not only because we have to act like the policemen of the world.  It is not our job or our business.  I believe Americans would rather have health and a decent retirement, but our politicians are not doing what the people want.  After they get elected, they turn just as corrupt as the incumbents and do whatever they want.  All of the big issues of this country are decided whether the people want it done or not.  Our wants and wishes are completely ignored.
Jul 19, 2013 1:30PM
Roads and bridges failing, SS running out of money, seniors having a difficult time, no money for schools, on and on. However, we have money for rogue nations and every other stupid project the politicians want. This Gov. should be embarrassed!
Jul 19, 2013 9:09AM
I'm not counting on Social Security that's for sure. So what you're saying is if I work really hard in this life to ensure I can retire, that'll be stripped away from me because others didn't live as prudently, and they'll of course want what I have earned!
Jul 19, 2013 12:54PM
Not only is Social Security suffering, but Obama gave a 2% furlough on the Social Security deduction to every American and called it a payroll tax break.  That was not a federal tax cut as most people believe but a reduction in your SS deferral.  Every American was given this furlough even though Socail Security is already failing.  Now they are allowing 10 to 20 million people who have never paid into the fund to be eligible for at least minimum SS after only ten years of working.  These are the illegal i8mmigrants who are being granted amnesty.  If there isn't money to pay seniors who ahve worked for fifty years, how is there money to give people a furlough on payroll deferrals.  Even the President got the furlough.  Really, how do they make the case for allowing 10 to 20 million people to be eligible for federal benefits after only ten years when they can't pay benefits to the people who worked for forty years?   It is true that in the United States the people who work are the fools, and the people who complain of back pain and get on disability are the smart ones.  Those that know how to work the system and get phony physicians to certify them as disabled, or get on disability due to obesity while they sit home and eat, those people are "getting it while they can."   The rest of Americans are going to have to retire out of the U.S. to make ends meet.  Shame on our government.
Jul 19, 2013 9:10AM
Who could have guessed that when the Rich and the Elite keep all the Rewards while doing little to almost none of the Real Work, they retire whenever they want while the rest of us Work until we drop DEAD. We have earned better than that, apparently the Rich and the Elite believe otherwise.
Jul 19, 2013 1:45PM
Yes, Plutocracy's do no serve the majority but as we've seen reported since the Great Depression of 2008, the Robber Barons, whom our elected Republicans and Democrats are serving, are making billions upon billions!!!!  

We must take back our government'
Repeal all laws that gutted the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1936 (the keystone for recovery from the Robber Baron induced Depression of 1929).
End all participation in NAFTA, millions of jobs, profits and potential taxes offshored for the benefit of the Robber Barons.
End HLS and NSA, billions of middle class tax dollars spent on 'contracted'  Robber Baron corporations to develop weapons for spying on US!
Repeal the Patriotic Act which has allowed the Robber Barons to seize control of our government and operate criminal organizations in secrecy.

Capitalism is fascism  when democracy is dead.

Jul 19, 2013 11:53AM

"Americans just don't have the safety net they once did." When was that exactly? I'm 66 and it was never clear in my lifetime that there was a safety net. It's just not the American way.

Jul 19, 2013 4:21PM
I got laid off last fall.  I was scared to death after having worked all my life, but now I'm glad it happened.  After unemployment ended, I went on early Social Security.  I love it.  I don't miss the rat race at all.  When I think back on all the years of work - child care, night school, rushed weekends doing laundry and shopping with little time for enjoyment - believe me, I don't know how I did it all.  This is a nice time of life and I'm enjoying myself.  I highly recommend it to anyone who can swing retirement.
Jul 19, 2013 2:05PM
The robbing of the world continues ....keep us in debt and working and hopefully we'll die before we can collect or die quickly enough that what we collect will be minimal.
Jul 19, 2013 12:37PM
The road to happiness is paved with family, enterprise and thrift. The road to hell is paved with the good intentions of a pandering state.  
Jul 19, 2013 12:14PM
Once again, the media is being used to create someone to hate - this time retirees - people who WORKED and CONTRIBUTED all their lives to their OWN RETIREMENT FUND.  The GOP is DETERMINED to get their hands on Social Security, which is FUNDED SEPARATELY and is NOT BANKRUPT, but is generating MORE than sufficient income. WHY??? So the GOP can turn it over to their CORPORATE OWNERS in subsidies, tax loopholes, and giveaways.
Jul 19, 2013 1:05PM
The economics of retirement are driven by more than factor. I would list them as 1) declining birth rate does not fuel economic growth nor increased tax revenues. The 'greatest generation", parents of the baby boomers, lived off of their prolific breeding and economic growth post WWII. We are now at the end of that Ponzi scheme. 2) Exporting American manufacturing jobs drives the elimination of the middle class. Only the rich benefit from globalizing the economy unless we retain the ability to make something. 3) Life styles and expectations. We as a nation expect to maintain or improve our lifestyle in retirement. In no way do we save enough in aggregate to make that happen. Many folks could retire now if they were willing to downsize their Big Mac lifestyle. 4) We live longer. Money doesn't go as far. Now if you have saved enough and are willing to live frugally you can afford the extra years. For some people, not so much interest in doing that. 
Jul 19, 2013 3:38PM
I was in my bank the other day to make a deposit and take out some cash.  It was just about noon.  There was one teller open and about 12 people waiting in line.  No additional lines were opened.  The teller I used is one I have known for years.  I mentioned the lack of tellers.  She said the bank was cutting all tellers hours to under full time plus two account managers and the heads of two departments.  No benefits paid except at the highest level.  This lady is about to retire anyway but the account managers and department heads are not.  Is it any wonder that one one will retire, no one will have full time jobs with benefits. or enough income to save for retirement.  I walked over and closed two savings accounts.  Not that any bank is any better, but this is a long time community bank that had been purchased by another bank several years back.  Services have been cut back, fees increased.  No reason to keep my money with them.  Also a reason a cash a large amount of my checks to cash and pay for items cash only.
Jul 19, 2013 2:23PM
I'm 62, educated and found out fast about age discrimmination  Nobody wants to hire an old fart with one foot in the grave who has to to go the hospital often for ailments.  Employers want young people who move fast, think fast, and go to the hospital less frequently than old farts considering Obamacare coming up next year. 
Jul 19, 2013 4:58PM

We have our crooks in congress to thank for selling out the people who in naïve faith put them in office.


It's too late now - there's nothing anyone can do about it anymore. The government(s) are no longer able to influence or control much of anything......especially when people in congress are controlled by people who give them money instead of by people who give them votes. Democracy is dead !


When the uber-rich can live in and enjoy the benefits of a democratic society, without having to take any financial responsibility to support it - then Democracy is dead !


When CEO pay is 300x larger than average workers and minimum wages place and leave 10's of millions of workers well below the poverty level of existence - Democracy is dead !


When bankers and brokers and agents and lawyers can rob and steal society blind and never have to pay for their crimes - Democracy is dead !


When an entire political party can openly and publically state that it's highest priority is to make sure that the newly elected President fails at his job - Democracy is dead!


When Democracy is dead - so too are those live inside.


The Revolution will be televised !

Jul 19, 2013 4:59PM

I am at the end of the baby boom generation. I did what I was told. I put money into my savings account and was also promised a pension. Which the company I work for fazed out in favor of the 401k. Plan.   That was not my idea - I believe some financial/banking lobbyist in Washington's brilliant idea and our politician's voted for those brilliant plans.  They got their hands on money- can you find the fees for these 401k plans???? Someone with a masters looked at their and it took them 6 month to find all the fees associated with their 401k plan - how is the regular guy suppose to do this. Compared to my Dad I will have jack sh** when I retire. The GOP messed everything up for all of us. They sold us a bag of poison and told it was candy 

Jul 19, 2013 12:00PM
How sweet. In the midst of a discussion of old Americans' hardships REGAL MAN500 and Big spender 777 found each other. And they can afford it.  Hilarious.
Jul 19, 2013 12:26PM
So........big spender has her own money and looks like Kelly Ripa...........while REGAL MAN looks like Roger Moore and is a scratch golfer.

In other words they are in reality Archie and Edith Bunker white-trailer-trash who have to resort to lying and blogging to try to get a date. LOL
Jul 19, 2013 6:34PM

Shouldn't be difficult to figure out who's running the show. Over the 15 years Fortune 500 companies have spent $55 BILLION dollars in congressional lobbying alone. It's worked out incredibly well for THEM.That figure is verifiable by researching The Senate Office of Public Records. Meanwhile, the American worker is taking it like anyone would a left hook to the bikini area. Not very well.

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