Pension reform in France: Which countries have the lowest and highest retirement ages in Europe?

An elderly woman man walks past not collected garbage cans, Thursday, March 9, 2023 in Paris.
An elderly woman man walks past not collected garbage cans, Thursday, March 9, 2023 in Paris. Copyright AP Photo/Michel Euler
Copyright AP Photo/Michel Euler
By Servet Yanatma
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France faces another day of strikes and protests over President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform. How does the rest of Europe compare?


France on Thursday faced another day of protests and strikes against the government's pension reform raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.

The plan to make the French work for longer also requires 43 years of work to earn a full pension at 64 - otherwise, workers would have to wait until they turn 67. 

This rule is to kick in by 2027, while the statutory retirement age will go up by three months each year, starting in September, eventually reaching the 64 years mark by the end of the decade.

The government says the reform is needed to make the French pension system financially sustainable as the nation's population ages. But the opposition and unions are calling for other options, such as making companies and the wealthy pay more to finance the pension system.

The contentious plan has been forced through parliament without a vote and is now being examined by the Constitutional Council, which is expected to say on April 14 whether it approves all or part of the text, the last step before the law can enter into force.

The retirement age hike is not just a trend in France: the standard mandatory retirement age is set to increase in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Which countries have the lowest and highest retirement ages in Europe? What is the number of expected years spent in retirement in Europe? And at what age do Europeans exit the labour market?

We examined the available data.

What are the current early and statutory retirement ages in Europe?

Definitions of the statutory pension age vary across countries. There are different practices in each country depending on pension type, according to the OECD dataset and the Pensions at a Glance report.

The two reports use 2020 figures - the latest available data analysing current and future retirement ages for those who entered the labour force at age 22.

In some cases, the report does not specify the gender of each country, which means the retirement age for men and women might be the same in those places.

Current retirement ages include two types: early and standard. For men, early retirement ages vary from 59 years in Lithuania to 63.7 years in Germany, according to the OECD report. For women, it ranges from 58 years in Lithuania to 63.7 years in Germany.

In France, the current early retirement age stands at 62 years of age for both men and women. In fact, 62 is the early retirement age in almost half of the countries, including Sweden, Portugal, Norway, Italy, Greece, and Austria.

Actual retirement ages are more varied compared to early retirement ages and closely reflect the mandatory retirement age. For men, it ranges from 52 years in Turkey to 67 years in Norway and Iceland.

For women, it is 49 years in Turkey, whereas Norway and Iceland have the highest retirement ages of 67 years.

Does France have a higher retirement age than the EU?

The EU average stands at 64.3 years for men and 63.5 years for women.

In France, the current retirement age is 64.5 years for both men and women, according to the OECD dataset.

This means that France has a slightly higher retirement age than the EU average. It is still lower than in some other bloc members, such as Germany, where this figure comes out to 65.7 years for both men and women.


Excluding Turkey, the minimum current retirement age across Europe is 62 years for men and 60 years for women. 

The current retirement age is 65 years or over in most European countries where OECD data is available. 

Of the EU member states, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Slovenia have the lowest current retirement ages, with 62 years for both men and women.

Expected years in retirement increased considerably

Expected years in retirement is the life expectancy measured at the age of effective exit from the labour market, and this figure has significantly increased over time. 

In 1970, men in the OECD countries had 12.0 years on average after their exit from the labour market while they could expect to spend 19.5 years in retirement by 2020. 


Women’s life expectancy at labour market exit was markedly higher to start, resting at 16.0 years on average in the OECD in 1970. 

This rose to 23.8 years in 2020, while the gap between men and women has also slightly grown.

Women are expected to live four years longer than men after retiring

The gap between women and men in expected years of retirement varies from 2.0 years in Ireland to 7.5 years in Cyprus. 

By 2020, European women typically can expect to live 4.3 years more than men after they exit the labour market. 

While the EU average is 4.6 years, in France, the gender gap stands in favour of women by a total of 3.6 years.


Interestingly, life expectancy in retirement for both highly varies across Europe. For men, it ranges from 14 years in Latvia to 24 years in Luxembourg.

For women, it varies from 18.9 years in Latvia to 28.4 years in Greece. Women are expected to have 26 years or more to spend while retired in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain.

France ranked in the top three for expected years in retirement

France recorded very high expected years in retirement, ranking second in men (23.5 years) and third in women (27.1 years) across the continent.

What will be the future retirement ages by 2060?

OECD estimates that the normal retirement age will increase by about two years on average by the mid-2060s in the countries it includes. 

Denmark is projected to have the highest retirement age, at 74 years for both men and women. In many countries, the future actual retirement age might be around 65 or even 66 years of age.


In the EU, the retirement age is expected to be 66.1 years for men and 65.9 years for women by 2060. In France, the retirement age is projected to reach 66 for both men and women in the same period.

[Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state that the French pension reform would gradually raise each year the statutory retirement age by three months - not six - starting in September, eventually reaching the 64 years mark by the end of the decade.]

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