Majority of Belgians Aspire to Retire Before 65, but Only a Minority Achieve It

BRUSSELS — A new survey by HR service provider Acerta reveals that while eight out of ten Belgians wish to retire before reaching 65, only four in ten manage to do so.

The survey, based on data from 570,000 employees and 190,000 self-employed individuals, underscores a significant gap between retirement aspirations and reality.

Starting July 1st, employees can accumulate a pension bonus if they work beyond their earliest possible retirement date.

Despite this incentive, many remain unconvinced, with about 80% of respondents expressing a desire to retire before 65.

However, nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents realistically expect to retire at 65 or later, and almost half (47%) assume they will work past 67.

Currently, four in ten workers retire before 65, but this figure varies significantly across different sectors.

In construction, 60% retire early, with similar trends in logistics and transport (58.67%), hospitality (56.1%), and wholesale and retail (51.85%). These sectors often involve starting careers earlier, making early retirement more feasible.

“The sectors with a high outflow before 65 are also those where people start their careers early, which makes an early outflow logical,” said Ellen Van Grunderbeek, legal expert at Acerta Consult.

“But the fact that so many social profit employees stay on the job longer than average is striking. This is because social profit employs a lot of women, and they do not retire as early as men. Only 38% of female Belgian workers retire before the age of 65.”

The social profit sector, which includes hospitals and residential care centers, sees only three in ten retiring before 65.

Van Grunderbeek highlighted that sectors with higher early retirement rates often have physically demanding jobs that encourage earlier exits from the workforce. Employers can motivate workers to stay longer by providing meaningful and manageable jobs.

“Sustainable careers that focus on continuous development, deployment, and growth, where it is evident that roles and functions change as one’s career progresses, will have to become the norm. This can bring the desirable and actual retirement ages closer together,” Van Grunderbeek explained.

The survey also revealed that self-employed individuals retire earlier than employees, with almost two-thirds (64.5%) retiring before 65. The average retirement age for the self-employed slightly decreased to 63 years and a month and a half.

Notably, 84% of self-employed workers in the construction industry retire before 65, contrasted by only 23% in liberal professions such as lawyers, artists, and journalists.

“To retire early, you have to start your career early. This is slightly more common among the self-employed than among employees,” noted Mieke Bruyninckx, legal expert at Acerta Social Insurance Fund.

“For example, those who retire at 62 or 63 in 2023 have already started working at 19, 20, or 21.”

Acerta is closely monitoring the impact of the pension bonus system, which offers substantial financial incentives for extended careers. For instance, an additional year of work can earn a bonus of approximately €3,900, escalating with each subsequent year.

Whether these incentives will sufficiently motivate those with less than 43 years of career to delay retirement remains uncertain.

As Bruyninckx pointed out, the bonus system might trigger a reconsideration of pension plans, especially for those with longer careers. “The pension bonus is expected to trigger a behavioral effect for those with a career of 43 years or more,” she concluded.


This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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