Retirement ages seem to be constantly moving to later and later in life with early retirement becoming increasingly something enjoyed by the few fortunate enough to afford it.
To find out which European countries were best when it came to employment for those aged 50 or over, claims.co.uk utilised labour force survey data to present the top areas today while also highlighting the countries that have improved the most over time.
To find out which European countries for over 50s employment, we gathered data on:
This allowed us to give an ‘employment score’ to each of the countries and rank them from the best nation for those over 50 looking for employment, to worst.
We found a general rule that there are more over 50s in employment than there are out of employment, a trend that carried through our data. But some countries, such as Croatia, Serbia, and Italy are all much more accepting when it comes to employment for older workers.
In countries such as Belarus and San Marino, the difference between employed and unemployed workers over the age of 50 is much smaller, showing a vastly different attitude.
Croatia is officially the best place for those over 50 years of age to find and keep employment, scoring an impressive 8.14 out of 10. Croatia has scored highly in the categories of over 50 employment rates while scoring lowly under the categories of unemployment rates.
Over half of the working population in Croatia is over 50 years of age, which is a huge contrast to the unemployed population. Of all the people actively seeking work in Croatia, only 19.59% are over the age of 50.
Following closely behind is neighbouring Serbia, which scored 7.68. Serbia’s scores are only slightly lower than Croatia’s, indicating very similar attitudes to over 50s employment. While it’s positive that 48.76% of those in employment in Serbia are over the age of 50, a substantial 18.46% of unemployed people are also in their 50s.
Just a hop, skip, and jump across the Adriatic Sea, Italy comes in third place with a score of 7.44. It has a much larger population and much higher numbers of over 50s that are employed. That being said, it does have one of the higher percentages of employment for over 50s, at 52.97%. It also has a higher number of unemployed over 50s, however, at 22.62%.
Proving Southern Europe really is ahead of the game when it comes to employing over 50s, and rounding out the top five, is Greece, which scores a respectable 6.63. Over half of the workers in Greece are aged over 50, beaten only by Italy, at 51.30%. However, Greece also has the highest unemployment rate in our top ten, at 23.75%.
Stepping in to represent the north, in joint fifth place is Norway which scored 6.51. Norway has the lowest unemployment rate among the over 50s at 13.65%. However, the employment of those over 50 has some catching up to do. Norway lags behind the rest of the top ten, with only 44.09% of workers being over 50.
Joining Norway in joint fifth place is Portugal, which scored 6.51 out of 10. Over half of the employed people in Portugal are aged over 50. However, Portugal is also similar to Greece in deceptively high unemployment rates among the over 50s, at 23.65%.
A hair’s breadth behind Portugal is Romania, which scored 6.28. The over-50 unemployment rate in Romania is much lower than in Portugal, with 19.48%. But their position in the top ten is secured by their employment rate—over half of the workers in Romania are aged over 50.
In joint eighth place is Belgium, which scores 6.16 out of 10. Belgium scores highly in terms of employed over 50s population with 47.09%, though not as high as most of our top ten. Belgium also scores relatively high in terms of unemployment, with 19.96% of unemployed people being over the age of 50.
It may come as a surprise that Belgium has made the top ten when its neighbour Germany, which only scored 5.35, did not. This just goes to show that you can’t judge a country by its role on the global stage—Germany may be more powerful, but in terms of employment of older people, it’s seriously lacking.
Joining Belgium in the penultimate spot is Slovenia, which also scores 6.16 out of 10. Slovenia is pretty good about employing older people, with almost half of workers being over 50. However, there is also an unemployment issue in Slovenia. Almost a quarter, 22.64%, of unemployed people in Slovenia are over 50.
And finally, rounding out the top ten, is France. France has scored a very respectable 6.05 out of 10. This is due to a high employment score, with 49.30% of workers being over 50 and a relatively high unemployment score. Of all those actively seeking work in France, 23.53% are over the age of 50. Seems like maybe France has a thing or two to learn from Croatia or Serbia.
Kicking off our list as the worst place for over 50s to seek employment is San Marino, which scores 1.28 out of 10. Similarly to Estonia, over a quarter of those over 50 are unemployed in San Marino, at 25.73%. The number of employees over 50s is incredibly low too, with only 38.35% of workers in San Marino being over 50.
The second spot on our list goes to Belarus, with a low score of 1.75 out of 10. Almost a quarter of those over 50 are unemployed, at 24.50%. Employment rates among the over 50s are also woeful in Belarus, with only 40.22% of workers being over 50.
In third place on our bottom five list is Estonia, scoring 3.14 out of 10. The unemployment rate of the over 50s is even greater in Estonia than it is in Armenia, at 28.47%. That’s almost a third of the job-seeking population. Estonia’s employment rates are somewhat better than Armenia’s however, with 47.25% of workers being aged 50 or above.
Only slightly better than Estonia is Armenia, with a score of 3.26 out of 10. Over a quarter of over-50s in Armenia are unemployed, at 25.73%, and of workers, only 42.90% are over 50. It must be noted, however, that data for Armenia is only available up to the year 2020.
Rounding off our bottom five list is Moldova, which is (arguably) the best of a bad bunch. The Republic of Moldova scores 3.38 out of 10. Moldova has one of the better employment rates in the bottom five, at 43.62% while the unemployment rate among the over 50s is a reasonably high 23.80%.
Times are always changing. What once was seen as normal could be strange and unheard of just a couple of generations later. The 21st century has seen huge changes across the board, but how have these changes impacted the employment rates of the over 50s over the years?
It used to be that you’d come of age and seek out your first job, progress through your working career, and then reach a certain age and retire. Not so any more. Increasingly, over 50s are staying in work and employers are following that trend, indeed, Governments are encouraging over 50s to stay in or return to work.
To find out how over 50s employment trends have changed over time, we looked at the changes in employment and unemployment between 2011 and 2021.
Iceland comes in first place on our list with an employment score of 8.98 out of 10. Iceland has an overall employment increase of 19.61% between 2011 and 2021, which is a pretty respectable improvement. Iceland also saw only a slight increase in unemployment among the over 50s, of just 0.98%.
Along with the general ageing of the population, this indicates that the only way is up when it comes to aged employment in Iceland. This improvement has been seen significantly more in women over the age of 50 than men, with women seeing an increase of 22.77% while men saw just 16.59%.
In second place is Norway, which has seen an overall score of 8.33. Norway saw an increase even more impressive than Iceland’s, of 22.88%, in employment for over 50s. However, this is also met with an increase of 13.24% in unemployment among the over 50s. While Norway also has an ageing population, it seems they aren’t as keen to employ older people as Iceland are.
Norway has proven to be the best place for women over 50 years of age to find employment, with an increase of 28.32%. When it comes to men over the age of 50, the improvement is much lower at 16.87%.
Rounding out the top three, and representing Southern Europe in what seems to be a predominantly Northern European Top Ten, is North Macedonia. This landlocked nation scored 7.95. North Macedonia has experienced an overall increase in employment of the over 50s of 14.25%, with an increase in unemployment of just 3.37%. Women’s employment increased by 13.93% while men’s increased by 14.59%.
Germany has just been pipped to the top three position and lands in fourth place on the list, with a score of 7.69. Employment of the over 50s in Germany has increased by 10.75% between 2011-2021. However, this slight improvement is also met with a decrease in unemployment among the over 50s of 3.88%, which means Germany clearly loves employing older people—they just do it at a slower rate. Women experienced an increase of 9.76%, while men have seen 12%.
Sweden has scored 7.31 out of 10, which puts it in fifth place. Employment of over 50s in Sweden has seen an increase of 19.04%. On the other hand, unemployment of the over 50s in Sweden almost matches employment, at 18.18%. Women in Sweden saw a greater than average increase, of 20.08%, while men saw a comparatively low employment increase. For men over 50 in Sweden, the increase in employment is just 17.95%.
Coming in sixth place on our list is the Netherlands, which scores 6.92. Over 50s employment in the Netherlands has seen an increase of 10.07%, although unemployment in the Netherlands has only increased by a barely noticeable 0.05%. Women in the Netherlands have enjoyed an increase of 9.05%, while men have experienced 11.21%.
Georgia comes in seventh place on the top ten, scoring 6.67, with the caveat that data could only be collected for Georgia between 2011 and 2020*. Georgia saw an overall increase of 14.75%, which is respectable, but Georgia also saw a significant increase in unemployment among the over 50s of 19.07%. Women saw a better-than-average increase of 15.74%, while men saw an increase of just 13.98%.
In eighth place is Slovakia, which has achieved an overall score of 6.67. Employment for the over 50s has seen an increase of 11.80%, but this is almost matched by a rise in unemployment of 10.76%. Slovakian women have experienced an increase of 10.32% while men experienced 13.75%.
In joint ninth place on our list, scoring 6.54 is Latvia. Between 2011 and 2021, Latvia was just pipped to the post by Portugal in the increase of over 50s employment, experiencing 12.51% on average. For women, that is an increase of 11.49%, while men have seen an increase of 14.48%.
Concluding our top ten is Portugal, which scores 6.54 and saw an increase of 12.60% on average. However, Portugal didn’t even make the top ten when it came to employment for women over 50, showing an increase of just 12.09%. Men have fared slightly better, with an increase of 13.10%.
Not all countries across Europe have seen an increase in employment of the over 50s population. Some have kept the level of employment consistent, while others have even seen a reduction in employment for the over 50s population.
Coming in first place with the lowest score of 0.90 is Luxembourg. While the number of employed over 50s has gone up by 5.98%, unemployment rates have soared by a whopping 117.84%.
Scoring 2.05, Belarus saw a decrease of 0.86% in employment of those aged 50 and over, which doesn’t sound too bad. Belarus did have an increase of 4.56% when it came to employing men aged over 50, however, women saw a decrease in employment of 4.09%.
Belgium scores an overall 2.82 for over 50s employment. While the number of over 50s employed in Belgium has gone up by 6.06%, unemployment among the over 50s has also increased but by considerably more – 31.40%.
Malta joins Belgium with a score of 2.82. Malta has seen a decrease in over 50s employment of 4.35%, while unemployment rates have soared by 18.52%.
Joining Malta and Belgium is Romania, also with a score of 2.82. While Romania has also seen an increase in employed over 50s workers, with a rate of 8.57%, there has also been an increase in unemployment of 49.57%.
Many countries have experienced and welcomed a change in employment style, with over 50s making up an ever-increasing percentage of the working population. While it is reassuring to know that it will be possible to find employment, should it be needed, in older years, the question remains whether this is truly a good thing for those who simply wish to enjoy their twilight years in peace—without needing to bring in money.
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