Belgians do not envisage themselves retiring at 65

Only one in five Belgians wants to work 80% or more between the ages of 60 and 65. The special system for certain older employees, which allows them to work fewer hours towards the end of their career without affecting their pension entitlement, but also the prospect of salary increases as they get older, could positively influence people’s willingness to work for longer. Belgians are also good at estimating the benefits they can expect, both from their state pensions and their supplementary pensions.

This is what Professor Xavier Baeten and researcher Bart Verwaeren of the Centre for Excellence in Strategic Rewards at Vlerick Business School have concluded from their research on the perception that Belgian employees between the ages of 45 and 65 have of the end of their career. This research was conducted in collaboration with media companies De Standaard and La Libre Belgique. What is unique about this research is that for the first time all pension pillars are in the spotlight (state, supplementary and private), and that employees were asked how they could be convinced to work for longer.

According to Xavier Baeten, there are three things that need to happen quickly to keep employees working for longer: a fundamental change in compensation structures, a change to the career model and a supporting regulatory framework.

Retirement no later than 62

Belgium is at the bottom of the class when it comes to active employment of people between the ages of 55 and 64.  Alongside Belgium, only France and Spain fall below the European average. Finland and Norway are at the top.

The average Belgian would like to retire no later than at 62, i.e. ideally 3 years before the statutory retirement age. The good news is that the desired retirement age gets higher as people get older. As a comparison, the average Dutch person would like to retire at 64.

Knowledge of the financial aspects

People think (too) late about the financial aspects of their pension. Only 35% of employees between the ages of 45 and 54 are currently financing their pensions. In the 55-60 category this figure increases, but not to much more than half of all employees (57%).

Despite the fact that Belgian employees are insufficiently proactive about the financial planning of their pensions, they are good at making a realistic estimate of their state pension benefits (first pillar). That is also the case for their supplementary pension benefits (second pillar). Most people would ideally have this supplementary pension paid out as a lump sum. 74% of employees are currently building up a private pension alongside their state and supplementary pensions through pension savings schemes or investments (third pillar).

On average, people envisage needing around 75% of their current salary to make ends meet when they are retired. That is also a realistic estimate.

Barriers and solutions to working longer

How can we make Belgians work longer? With time and money.

People are keen on the idea of a gradual reduction of working hours as their career progresses. That can be done for example by working 80%, 60% or 50% of their hours or even less as they get older. Flexibility is therefore important, as well as taking into account the individual wishes and circumstances of each employee.

A second motivator is the prospect of a salary increase as retirement age approaches.

And finally, it is also important that older employees continue to find their job challenging enough to keep them interested. They still have a desire to progress. Therein lies an important role for line managers as well as for HR.


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