Early Retirement of Civil Servants in the Netherlands1


  • 1

    The research discussed in this article has been jointly conducted with the Department of Labor Market Research of the Ministry of Home Affairs, and has been partly financed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The authors are indebted to Matthijs Kalmijn, Aat Liefbroer, Arnold Peters, Jacques Siegers, and the anonymous referees for their comments on a previous version of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kène Henkens, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), P.O. Box 11650, 2502 AR The Hague, The Netherlands.


The Netherlands is aging, the labor force participation of older men and women is low, particularly seen in an international perspective. At the same time the massive departure of elderly from the labor force seems to be becoming more and more difficult to afford. In addition, the question arises whether sufficient financial support will be available in the future for maintaining the current level of old age facilities. Despite the popularity of early retirement schemes in the Netherlands, little attention has been paid to the factors underlying this phenomenon. This article takes an initial step towards a multivariate modelling of the older employees' decision to retire early. Compared with other countries, the situation in the Netherlands is special to the extent that there is relatively little variation in the situational context of rules and regulations on voluntary early retirement. This does not imply that the opportunity structure is the same for every older employee: There is variation in the household context, state of health, the organizational context, and the normative context. Furthermore, within a given opportunity structure, there is variation in the older employee's disposition towards early retirement. Using a method of decreasing abstraction, data have been analyzed from a survey conducted among civil servants eligible for early retirement. In the case of the Netherlands, we conclude that mainly the organizational context, the normative context, and the employee's disposition towards retirement play a major role in explaining the early retirement decision. In comparison to former studies in the U.S., we find surprisingly no effect of the financial-economic variables on the decision to retire.