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The countries where people retire the youngest

For some nations, the growing share of residents leaving the workforce presents challenges

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Elderly women play a card game of rummy.
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images (Getty Images)

China has the world’s youngest retirement age, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For that distinction, it can partly thank a government policy dating back to the 1950s that lets women retire at 50 and men at 60.

Other countries with relatively young retirement ages include Russia, Indonesia, Colombia, and Turkey. In 2019, president Vladimir Putin said Russia’s working-age population was shrinking due to the retirement age. Some nations where people can leave the workforce early face worries about dwindling pension funds.

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For some, retiring young may not be an option

Though retiring young may sound appealing, the reality is that some choose not to so they can maintain a certain lifestyle—or might be forced to keep working just to pay the bills.

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In China, government funding hasn’t kept up with the number of people entering retirement, prompting some Chinese to remain in the workforce longer.

In the US, high inflation pushed many Americans to un-retire in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, including people in their 60s who rejoined the workforce to make ends meet.

How will countries support the swelling ranks of retirees?

Even in countries where the retirement age is 64 or 65, an aging population remains a concern.

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In France, for example, roughly one in four inhabitants is over 60. It’s estimated that by 2040, that share will rise to one in three. When it comes to supporting residents 65 and older, Asia and Europe face the biggest challenges. Japan’s elderly make up 28% of its population, while Italy’s comprise 23%. In Finland, Greece, and Portugal, about 22% of people are 65 and older.

China is home to the largest elderly population. By 2050, about 26% of China’s residents will be 65 and older, the United Nations projects, compared to 12% in 2019. That’s 366 million people, more than the entire population of the US.

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Although the global population reached 8 billion in 2022, the growth rate has slowed. As more people around the world retire, countries must figure out how to support those residents—and how society can function economically with a big chunk of its population out of the labor force.