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Millennials think they will never retire: things employers should know

Almost 20 per cent think they may even have to work until they die

More than one-third of millennials – adults aged 20 to 34 – expect to work past age 70, according to a global survey by staffing company ManpowerGroup. Confronted by mounds of student debt and a rise in house prices that has outmatched the growth in wages, millennials have developed serious doubts about their ability to retire.

A global outlook

The Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision report from Manpower surveyed more than 19,000 people from around the world born after 1980. Contrasting this group’s career expectations with those of the previous generation, the survey uncovered that young adults in Japan have the bleakest outlook on their ability to retire, with more than one-third planning to work until the end of their lives. This is in stark contrast to their parent’s generation, in which fewer than one in five work past age 65.

China was second behind Japan, with one in five Chinese workers believing that they will never stop working.

Americans, on the other hand, were more optimistic about their ability to give up work. Only 12 per cent of millennials in the US believed retirement to be out of their grasp, compared with the 17 per cent of the boomer generation that continues to work in the US after age 65. Expectations across Europe in places such as France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain were also high, with fewer than 15 per cent of millennial workers unsure whether they could retire.

New priorities

Although the survey confirms the millennial generation as hard-working and able to save better than their parents’ generation, it is unclear whether their retirement outlook is based on wanting to work longer or a belief that they will have to for financial reasons. Nearly 75 per cent of millennials work more than 40 hours a week, with 25 per cent working more than 50 hours in more than one job.

The difference in how millennials plan their careers could partly account for the shift in their retirement expectations. More than 84 per cent of young adults in the workplace are planning a career break for reasons that range from marriage, childbirth and care of an elderly relative to relaxation, travel and pursuit of a dream. Viewing their career development as cyclical rather than linear, millennials expect to take frequent breaks and to change their career paths and the pace at which they work throughout their lives.

While both men and women cited taking care of themselves among their top reasons for a break, women were more likely to plan one to care for others, while men’s priorities tended to be self-focused. 61 per cent of women, for instance, expected to take time off for the birth of a child, while only 32 per cent of men expected to do the same.

Shaping the future

Over the next four years, millennials will make up almost 35 per cent of the labour force and are already the largest percentage of the global working population. As the number of jobs at their disposal increases, their outlook on job satisfaction, career development and retirement is expected to shape how employers approach recruitment and retention.

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