Unequal ageing: life-expectancy, care needs and reforms to the welfare state (PENSINEQ)

The main research objective is to document how inequalities in ageing – such as those between the rich and the poor and those between men and women – have changed across successive birth cohorts, and how public policies aiming to strengthen the fiscal sustainability of welfare systems have counteracted or accentuated these trends. This project will rely on data and reforms carried out in five countries encompassing North America, Western Europe and Scandinavia and carefully chosen to ensure a wide span of institutional arrangements in areas such as labour markets, social security and private pensions: Canada, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The project is supported by funding within the JPI MYBL from the following national funding bodies: ANR, DfG, ESRC, FORTE, CIHR



In most OECD countries, life expectancy at older ages has increased strongly over recent decades. However, these gains in years of life are not equally distributed. There is large heterogeneity in life expectancy within birth cohorts by gender and socio-economic status.

The average increase in longevity at older ages has put enormous pressure on welfare states, specifically on pay-as-you-go pension systems. As a result, most countries have introduced reforms to promote longer working lives–most notably by increasing retirement ages–, and/or by reducing replacement levels provided by public pensions and increasingly incentivizing private retirement savings. At the same time, new health care and long-term care policies have been introduced to cope with the increasing number of individuals needing longterm care. While these reforms are largely motivated by an imbalance in the financing of traditional social security systems, they often overlook important and potentially adverse implications on inequality across several dimensions, e.g., education, income, region, birth cohorts, and gender.

Research objectives

The main research objective is to document how inequalities in healthy ageing have changed across cohorts, and how public policies aiming to strengthen the fiscal sustainability of welfare systems have counteracted or accentuated these trends.

Method and data

The project will rely on data and reforms carried out in five countries (Canada, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom). These countries encompass North America, Western Europe and Scandinavia and thus include a wide span of institutional arrangements in areas such as labour markets, social security and private pensions.

In documenting ageing inequalities, this project aims to bring together a variety of characteristics (education, gender, place of residence, occupation, income and wealth) along which ageing inequalities vary. Recent research (Case and Deaton, 2015; Chetty et al., 2016) has highlighted how important it is to consider various factors behind these ageing inequalities in order to shed light on the possible mechanisms behind their formation.

It is now possible to address these questions through recent access to new waves of precise data, notably administrative data, linked to high quality household survey data. These data have rarely been exploited in a crosscountry comparison, and this project will largely rely on them. Three types of data sources will be notably exploited.

First, administrative data (social security or tax data) with detailed income information matched with death registry data, have been key to unlock new results about changes in mortality inequalities. Second, ageing surveys (SHARE, ELSA) have now been linked with many administrative sources, and offer sufficient waves to estimate changes across cohorts in a number of dimensions. Finally, new surveys or census data with special modules on long term care (e.g., CARE for France or Microcensus in Germany) can offer new insights on how recent changes in care needs can affect differently elderly.

First part: recent trends in life-expectancy and healthy ageing inequality

The overall objective is to bring about a more complete and multi-faceted picture of recent trends in ageing inequalities across countries from North America and Europe.

First, researchers will document inequalities in life expectancy, healthy aging and need for long term care across cohorts and countries.They build upon a recent strand of literature which has exploited new data to produce reliable estimates of life-expectancy inequality by income levels.

They will add evidence from France and Sweden, and carry out a cross-country analysis
using available estimates from Canada, England, Germany, and the US. Thus, they have the opportunity to compare how mortality inequality has changed over time across countries.

Mortality is, however, only one aspect of ageing inequalities. Researchers aim to provide additional insights into healthy life expectancy using EUwide data and additional surveys from France and Sweden.

Second part: current policies effects on redistributive trends

Researchers will look at the implications that current policies have on redistribution trends.
Their objective is to exploit pension reforms in the UK, in France and in Sweden to describe how these changes have affected individuals differently according to their gender and socio-economic backgrounds.

Raising the age at which a public pension can first be drawn is a key way that many governments have sought to address the public finance pressure of an ageing population.

To offset the reduction in generosity of the public pension some governments – for instance, Cananda and the UK – have introduced reforms to encourage greater private saving. These reforms are likely to affect inequalities in retirement incomes. Researchers will explore inequalities in private pension decisions, the effect of recent reforms such as automatic enrolment in the UK, and the potential implications for pension income inequality in the future.

Third part: inequalities in access to long-term care

Recent research has also started to highlight how both care needs, formal care take-up and informal care provision are largely influenced by socio-economic background. Researchers will add to this body of research by analysing how reforms impact inequalities in care responsibilities in Canada and Germany. For this question it is key to focus on the interaction between the pensions system, informal care and long-term care institutions.


This project began in June 2021 and will run for 36 months. Below is the list and content of the project highlights..

28th May 2024 : final Conference – Paris

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> Registrations

15th November 2023 : London

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May and June 2022 : Stockholm

The Importance of Income Concept for the Measurement of Inequality in Life Expectancy, by Antoine Bozio, Ander Iraizoz, Simon Rabaté and Maxime Tô.The welfare impact of introducing a universal earnings-related pension, by Lisa Laun, Marten Palme and Johannes Hagen.Differential Mortality and Redistribution in the French Pension System by Aurel Mélard, Simon Rabaté and Maxime Tô.Increasing disability benefits: selection and labor market effects, by Peter Haan and Julie Tréguier.Ethnic disparities in pension saving, before and after automatic enrolment, by Laurence O’Brien, Jonathan Cribb and David Sturrock.

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December 2022 : Online meeting

Duration of widowhood by Julie Tréguier (DIW, Germany)Effect of DI Reform by Annica Gehlen (DIW, Germany)

September 2022 : Venise

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March 2022 : Online meeting

Märten Palme (Stockholm University, Sweden)Increasing employment and family care? A structural analysis of pension and long-term care policy reforms, by Björn Fischer (DIW Berlin, Germany) and Thorben Korfhage.

November 2021 : Online meeting

Effect of the rise in State pension age to 66 on employment in UK par Laurence O’Brien (IFS, UK) Jonathan Cribb, and Carl Emmerson.Responses to unexpected and permanent changes in pension income par Peter Haan (DIW Berlin, Germany), Sebastian Becker, Hermann Buslei, Johannes Geyer.

June 2021: Launch meeting

PENSINEQ project and JP-demographics organization par Antoine Bozio (IPP, France)



Financial partners


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Consortium members

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IPP Researchers involved in this project

Patrick Aubert, Mahdi BenJelloul, Antoine Bozio (PI), Ander Iraizoz, Nolwenn Loisel, Aurel Mélard, Delphine Roy, Simon Rabaté, Audrey Rain, Maxime Tô

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