Will the number of working seniors continue to increase in the coming years?

Published on: 15 September 2022

Current issues related to economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: chief economist Thijs Knaap and Head of HR Strategy Roosmarije Reneman on the increase in the number of working seniors in the Netherlands. 

After a lifetime of being Britain’s crown prince, Charles finally got to assume kingship on Saturday, at the age of 73. A good time to look at how people over 65 are faring in the Dutch job market.

Charles appears to be far from the only person over 70 who is not yet retired. In 2003, 3.3 percent of the Dutch population in the 70-75 age group were still working, CBS figures show. By 2019, this had risen to 8 percent, only to drop to 7.5 percent during the two Covid years. This means that 1 in 13 older people between the ages of 70 and 75 are still working. The increase among 65-year-olds was even greater. In 2003, fewer than 1 in 10 seniors aged 65 were working, before rising steadily to over 4 in 10 last year, which is linked to the increased state pension age.


Besides the higher state pension age, there are four other reasons why people are working longer than they used to, says Knaap. “Pensions have not been increased for a long time. If you get a higher pension, it is financially easier to retire sooner. On the other hand, if the pension is lower than desired, it is attractive to continue working a little longer. The effect of this will be somewhat smaller than the increased state pension age, but it does play a role.” A third, recent reason, is that labor is currently in high demand. “We are now going through a demographic transition where there are a lot of retirees spending money while fewer and fewer people are working. Therefore, it makes sense that the demand for people is increasing, including for part-time and occasional work. That will continue to increase in the future.”

Reason number four has to do with the transformation from an economy that was primarily focused on physical work to today’s service economy. “Working in the fields or in the factory you could no longer work after the age of 65, which is also the reason retirement was invented,” Knaap said. “A person over 65 will no longer work in the blast furnaces, but will work in the office, for example. Much of the work today is done sitting in the office or at home. That makes it easier for older people to continue working. The last reason is that there are more and more working women. This was a rarity after World War II, but since the 1960s the number has been increasing. The generation of working women has now reached age 65, and among them will be women who are still working at a more advanced age.”

There is also a risk in having an average high age at a company or sector

Despite the increase in the number of people over 65 working, many employers have a blind spot when it comes to the labor potential of older people, Reneman said. “There is a huge labor shortage right now. The idea that you have four people for every position to fill the vacancy really needs to be abandoned. So as an employer, why not use older people with their experience and life wisdom to fill vacancies?” At the same time, there is also a risk in having an age structure with an average high age at a company or sector. “An aging population has created major shortages in education and healthcare, for example. So, it is important that there is a good mix between the different ages, so you don’t get any surprises.”

Like Knaap, Reneman expects that, among other things, flexible working, which boomed during the corona crisis, will make it easier for older people who want to continue working to stay on the job longer because of a better work-life balance. This does not apply to every sector. “Someone who wants to train as a police officer starts their training right out of high school, and at age 20 starts working as an officer. But you might not be able to run after a thug until you’re 67. Military personnel also start very young, but you can only be in the military until a certain age, then your second career starts. We have to think more in terms of second, third and maybe fourth careers in a working life, and see (part-time) retirement as a vitality tool in addition to a good old-age provision.” 

Several developments will ensure that the number of working seniors will continue to rise in the coming years, Knaap expects. “The increasing (healthy) life expectancy and the pressure on the demand side due to the increasing aging population ensure this. Because continuing to work will not be ideal for everyone, it is good that the retirement age is not fixed.”


Whether older people want to continue working also depends on their health status and whether a person sees his or her job as a passion, Reneman believes. CBS figures seem to support the importance of work as a passion. For example, more than a quarter of all visual artists in the Netherlands are over 65. Occupational groups such as furniture makers, tailors and upholsterers also have relatively large numbers of older people. Reneman: “If you can be queen until you’re 96, why shouldn’t you also be able to do great things in your working life until you’re 75?”