pensions For Members

How does France's pension age of 62 compare to the rest of Europe?

The Local France
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How does France's pension age of 62 compare to the rest of Europe?
French pensioners on average get a good deal at present. Photo: AFP

France is braced for social unrest in 2023 as president Emmanuel Macron vows to push ahead with highly unpopular pension reforms - but just how good do the French have it when it comes to pensions?


The full details of the latest round of pension reforms were unveiled on Tuesday by prime minister Elisabeth Borne, but the headline news was raising the pension age from 62 to 64. 

Macron's government says this is necessary because the ageing population makes the current retirement age unsustainable but it seems that the population does not agree - polling suggests that between 60 and 70 percent of French people are against raising the pension age, while a significant portion (between 40 and 60 percent depending on the polls) actually want to lower the age to 60. 

The current pension reform is the second stage, after 2019 reforms that simplified the pension system and scrapped the 'special regimes' that allowed certain workers to retire early - from 55 in some cases. These reforms were passed but were never implemented because of the pandemic. 


France's pension system is currently in credit but is predicted to tip into deficit next year, with a gradually worsening financial position in the years ahead if nothing changes. 

So how does France's regime compare to those of other European countries?

Retirement age

In terms of retirement age French workers do pretty well - the legal age of 62 is one of the lowest in Europe, according to data from economic forum the OECD.

It's not the lowest though - four countries have ages that are lower for at least some of the population. In Austria women can retire at 60 and in Bulgaria at 61 years and 2 months.

Norway and Sweden both have flexible retirement systems which encourage later retirement, but the official age is 62 in Sweden and 61 in Norway and in Poland women can retire at the age of 60.

READ MORE: MYTHBUSTERS: Is the quality of life actually that good in France?

Many countries have plans in place to increase retirement ages in the future as the population lives longer, but here are the current legal retirement ages in Europe;

  • Germany - 65 years 7 months
  • Austria - 65 for men, 60 for women
  • Belgium - 65
  • Bulgaria - 64 years and 1 month for men, 61 years and 2 months for women
  • Denmark - 65
  • Spain - 65
  • Finland - 63 years and 3 months
  • France - 62
  • Greece - 67 or 62 (depending on the level of insurance)
  • Hungary - 64
  • Ireland - 66
  • Iceland - 67
  • Italy - 67
  • Luxembourg - 65
  • Norway - 62
  • The Netherlands - 66 years and 2 months
  • Poland - 65 for men and 60 for women
  • Portugal - 66 years and 5 five months
  • UK - 65
  • Sweden - 61
  • Switzerland - 65 for men, 64 for women

But the legal age doesn't tell the whole story because, as mentioned, many French people have special regimes which allow them to retire early. 

Therefore the average age for retirement in France is 60, set against the European average of 63 and the OECD average of 64.

Of course for many people what really determines when they can retire is not the legal age, but how much they have accrued in their pension pot. So women who have had career breaks to raise children, for example, found themselves losing out under the old system.


How much do you get?

Currently, in terms of how much they receive, French workers also do well with the average pension equivalent to 74 percent of the person's salary at the time they retired - one of the most generous in Europe and well above the OECD average of 58 percent.

In this comparison Spanish workers come out on top, with an average 82 percent of their leaving salary.

Italy's pension scheme - which is heavily in debt and also the subject of urgent reforms - gives 65 percent, while in Germany workers get 48 percent of their leaving salary and in Sweden the rate is 45.5 percent.

The UK comes out worst with a distinctly stingy 28 percent of the worker's most recent salary, although it should be pointed out that this is only the state pension and a lot of British workers also have a private pension to supplement their income, usually arranged through their company.

Public spending on pensions represents 14 percent of GDP in France - only Greece and Italy spend a higher proportion in Europe.


But the French pay for their generous pensions - in terms of mandatory contributions to public pensions schemes the French contribute some of the highest percentage of wages in Europe.

On average the French pay 11.2 percent of their wagers into pensions schemes with only the Netherlands (18 percent) Poland (11.3 percent) and Slovenia (15.5 percent) having higher rates.

The OECD says: "The highest total mandatory contribution rates (including employer's contributions) are found in Italy at 33.0 percent. The Czech Republic, France and Poland also have high effective contribution rates, between 26 percent and 28 percent.

"Countries with higher pension contribution rates will often have above average pension benefits (as in the case of France, Iceland, Italy and the Netherlands)."

Life expectancy

Another interesting stat to compare is the post-retirement life expectancy rates for different countries. France tops the table with men living for an average of 22.7 years after they end their careers and women 26.9 years.

France was followed by Spain, Greece and then Italy. In the UK men have a post-retirement life expectancy of 18.9 years and women 22.2 years (see table below).


Is it enough to live on?

The generosity of the pension regimes relate to the rates of poverty seen among pensioners, with France having one of the lowest rates - although still a high number - of 9.5 percent of pensioners living in poverty.

This compares to 16.1 percent in Sweden, 17 percent in the UK and 20 percent in Germany.

And as you would expect - people who retire early are less likely to live in poverty and tend to live longer overall, with France having one of the highest life expectancy rates in Europe.

On average, French people live to be 82.27 and enjoy 20.27 years of retirement.


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Anonymous 2023/01/05 23:05
The current UK retirement age is 66 years old, not 65.
Anonymous 2023/01/05 18:24
The state pension retirement age in the UK is not 65, it is 66 and rising!

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