As the population gets older, we seem to be working harder than ever. Around the world, life expectancies are extending and, with fewer couples deciding to have children, there has been an overall shift towards an ageing population. So, what does this mean for the workforce? With a growing number of dependants throughout society we must reassess the way we view retirement.

It is a controversial subject; some consider an ever-raising retirement age completely unjust, whereas some people are keen to continue earning money for as long as possible. Naturally, opinions about the matter vary from place to place. Japan, for example, is famous for its relentless and committed work ethic. On the other hand, many European countries choose a more relaxed way of life and people cease to work much sooner.

In this article, Mount Vernon Stairlifts explore how the retirement age varies around the world, and the reasons behind these variations…


People in Japan are amongst the hardest workers in the world — or at least the longest workers. Although the official retirement age in Japan is a currently set at a reasonable 62 (for men and women) it is forecasted to rise to 67 (for men) by 2023. Despite the current official age, in reality people work until an average 69.5 years.

Japanese workers can withdraw their pensions any time between the ages of 60 and 70. But, with many people choosing to extend their working life into their seventies, pensions are being withdrawn later and later. In response to this, the Japanese government is planning to let people delay the withdrawal until their seventies, giving them more time to add money to the pot.

Interestingly, the Japanese life expectancy is currently the highest in the world. As they are living longer healthier lives than ever before, it is reasonable that many choose to spend a large amount of their time earning money for future generations.

South Korea

Despite the official South Korean retirement age being set at 60 (for both men and women) it is the only country to outdo Japan with the oldest average working age. Both men and women in South Korea continue to work for an impressive average of 11 years after the official retirement age.

Like Japan, South Korea is known for its impressive life expectancy — a factor that helps to explain the average working age. However, the country also suffers a troubling amount of poverty and this is another reason why citizens feel they must work throughout their later years. Almost half of South Korea’s citizens aged over 65 currently live in relative poverty. In many cases, the old retirement age is more obligation than choice.


The retirement age is also creeping up here in the U.S. As it stands in 2019, if you retire at the age of 62 you are eligible to receive Social Security payments. If you hold on until you’re 65, you will be entitled to free Medicare benefits (assuming you’ve paid Medicare taxes for at least the past ten years). In the coming years however, the retirement age will be on the rise. For everyone born in 1960 or later, you will not be able to retire until you’re 67.

This gradual increase in retirement age is largely due to the ageing population. The below graph illustrates the percentage of the U.S population who are 65 years and older. This portion of American society has soared between the 1950s and today, and it looks like it is only going to continue growing.

Ageing population graph

Great Britain

A steadily rising retirement age is also predicted in Great Britain. The average retirement age currently sits at 65.5, and the official state pension age is currently 65. As of 2018, the average age and the official age just about equalized, but that may change over the next few years.

By 2020 the retirement age is predicted to be raised to 66, then 67 by 2028, and a staggering 68 by 2037. Like in the U.S.A, the older generation is a rapidly growing demographic in the United Kingdom, and this has led to an older workforce.


In Australia there is actually no ‘fixed’ retirement age. Residents can access their superannuation any time between the ages of 55 and 60 (depending on the year you were born). By 65.5 years Australians become eligible to receive age pension, however that is set to rise to 67 by 2023.

Contrasting the other countries we’ve looked at, Australians actually retire long before their pension eligibility age. A full decade earlier in fact! On average, Australians retire at the age of 55. It sounds like they’re pretty laid-back over there, but like elsewhere, the average retirement age is on the rise. If you only consider those that have retired in the past five years for example, the average jumps up to 62.9 years.

Overall, it looks like the older generations are going to make up an ever-increasing portion of the workforce around the world. In answer to this, we must make changes in our workplaces to support and facilitate older workers. It is essential that all workplaces are accessible, including ramps, disabled bathrooms and stairlifts wherever possible. We must also work to eradicate any stigma surrounding older workers. Finally, we must facilitate training sessions so that the older generation can ‘re-skill’ to keep up with technological advancements and evolving vocations throughout their lives.