Estimating trends in working life expectancy based on health insurance data from Germany : challenges and advantages

Against the backdrop of population aging and growing strain on pension systems, monitoring the development of Working Life Expectancy (WLE) is vital to assess whether the policies taken are effective. This is the first study investigating time trends and educational inequalities in WLE based on German health insurance data. The analyses are based on the data of the AOK Lower Saxony (N = 3,347,912) covering three time periods (2006-08, 2011-13, and 2016-18). WLE is defined as years spent in the labor force (i.e. in employment and unemployment) and was calculated for each age between 18 and 69 years for the three periods to depict changes over time using multistate life table analysis. Educational inequalities in 2011-13 are reported for two educational levels (8-11 years and 12-13 years of schooling). WLE increased in both sexes with increases being stronger among women. This holds irrespective of whether WLE at age 18 (35.8-38.3 years in men, 27.5-34.0 years in women) or the older working-age (e.g. at age 50 10.2-11.7 years in men, 7.8-10.5 years in men) is considered. Among women at all ages and men from their mid-20s onwards, WLE was higher among higher-educated individuals. Inequalities were most pronounced among women (e.g. Δ3.1 years in women, Δ1.3 years in men at age 50). The study supports previous research indicating that measures to extend working life are effective, but that noticeable inequalities in WLE exist. Health insurance data represent a valuable source for such research that has so far remained untapped. The data provide a suitable basis to investigate trends and inequalities in WLE. Future research should build on the strengths of the data by broadening the research towards a more comprehensive analysis of the development of WLE from a health perspective.


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