This is the introduction to the ninth phase of the project on International Social Security. This project, which compares the experiences of 12 developed countries, was launched in the mid-1990s following decades of decline in the labor force participation rate of older men. The first several phases document that social security program provisions can create powerful incentives for retirement that are strongly correlated with the labor force behavior of older workers. Subsequent phases have explored how disability program provisions affect retirement, whether there is a link between older employment and youth unemployment, and whether older individuals are healthy enough to work longer. In the two decades since the project began, the dramatic decline in men’s labor force participation has been replaced by sharply rising participation rates. Older women’s participation has increased dramatically as well. Over this same period, countries have undertaken numerous reforms of their social security programs, disability programs, and other public benefit programs available to older workers. Here we explore how the financial incentive to work at older ages has evolved from 1980 to the present. We highlight the role of reforms in these changing incentives and examine how changing incentives may have affected retirement behavior.
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