Both younger and older European men are staying away from work, experts say. Labour market regulations and dislocations are discouraging younger males, while older male workers have taken advantage of the lower retirement age of 60 instituted in the 1980s.

The trend has offset a surge in the number of female workers – with the result that total labour-force participation has hardly risen. Such are the findings of St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank economist Patricia S. Pollard.

  • In France, the share of 20- to 24-year-old males in the labour force fell from 86 percent in 1967 to 53 percent in 1998.

  • The share of 60- to 64-year-old French males in the work force plummeted over the same period from 63 percent to 15 percent.

  • Among comparable older men in Germany, the participation rate fell from 78 percent to 30 percent.

  • By comparison, 77 percent of American males ages 60 to 64 were working in 1967 – a proportion which dropped to 55 percent by 1998.

    Experts warn that Europe will have to reverse the trend toward late entry into and early exit from the labour force if it expects to thrive.

    Source: Gene Koretz, More European Men Opt Out, Business Week, September 25, 2000.

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