STANFORD, Calif. — Attitudes toward work and self-reliance, rather than the availability or adequacy of pensions, appear to explain why Japanese and American men continue working after age 60 far more than British and French men.
That finding, sociologist Alex Inkeles of the Hoover Institution said Tuesday, has important implications for businesses and governments, especially as the Baby Boom generation gets older.
"Policy-makers shouldn't have the idea that it is going to be easy to influence workers either to work longer or to retire earlier," Inkeles said.
"A lot of people have values to continue working, so it's important not to write policies that smother that desire," he said.
Studying data compiled by the Japanese Prime Minister's Office in 1981, Inkeles found that differences in retirement ages in the four countries surveyed could not be explained by such factors as income, social security pensions, life expectancy, unemployment rates, or provisions for early retirement.
"Instead, the differences seem to be explained by preferences, basic values, and conceptions about what is good and proper," Inkeles said in a paper presented at a conference on issues in contemporary retirement sponsored by Hoover and the National Institute on Aging.
"These evidently induce considerably larger proportions of the Japanese and, to a comparable if lesser extent, Americans, to stay on in the labor force after they reach 60."
The Japan survey showed 57% of Japanese men continued working after age 60, compared with 33% in the United States, 13% in the United Kingdom and 8% in France.
Asked where an older person's income should come from, Japanese and American men said about 60% should be from money saved while working and about 25% should be from social security, with the rest from family or other sources.
British workers said 42% should come from savings and 50% from government pensions. French workers said 29% should come from savings and 67% from government pensions.