Journal Article

Socioeconomic differences in working life expectancy: a scoping review

Solovieva, S., de Wind, A., Undem, K., Dudel, C., Mehlum, I. S., van den Heuvel, S. G., Robroek, S. J. W., Leinonen, T.
BMC Public Health , 24:735, 1–17 (2024)
Open Access


In the last decade, interest in working life expectancy (WLE) and socioeconomic differences in WLE has grown considerably. However, a comprehensive overview of the socioeconomic differences in WLE is lacking. The aim of this review is to systematically map the research literature to improve the insight on differences in WLE and healthy WLE (HWLE) by education, occupational class and income while using different ways of measuring and estimating WLE and to define future research needs.
A systematic search was carried out in Web of Science, PubMed and EMBASE and complemented by relevant publications derived through screening of reference lists of the identified publications and expert knowledge. Reports on differences in WLE or HWLE by education, occupational class or income, published until November 2022, were included. Information on socioeconomic differences in WLE and HWLE was synthesized in absolute and relative terms.
A total of 26 reports from 21 studies on educational and occupational class differences in WLE or HWLE were included. No reports on income differences were found. On average, WLE in persons with low education is 30% (men) and 27% (women) shorter than in those with high education. The corresponding numbers for occupational class difference were 21% (men) and 27% (women). Low-educated persons were expected to lose more working years due to unemployment and disability retirement than high-educated persons.
The identified socioeconomic inequalities are highly relevant for policy makers and pose serious challenges for equitable pension policies. Many policy interventions aimed at increasing the length of working life follow a one-size-fits-all approach which does not take these inequalities into account. More research is needed on socioeconomic differences in HWLE and potential influences of income on working life duration.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.