Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging

Living Edition
| Editors: Danan Gu, Matthew E. Dupre

Retirement Contracts

  • Hwei-Lin ChuangEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_172-1



Retirement is the act or condition of withdrawing from the labor force at a certain age (typically between 55 and 65 years old) with the expectation of receiving public and/or private pension benefits. Contract denotes a promise or set of promises that are legally enforceable and, if violated, allow the injured party access to legal remedies. Retirement contracts are agreements signed between two parties, normally employer and employee, over terms concerning the benefits, obligations, and duties related to retirement.


Retirement contracts are highly relevant to the fields of Economics and Law because retirement is an economic decision and a contract that has legally binding force. Many researchers have studied related issues in the disciplines of Economics and Law (Bull 1987; Gustman et al. 1994; Bird 2005). A typical comprehensive retirement contract has three major contents: retirement benefits, obligations and duties, and legal statement (International Labour Office 2017; www.contractstandards.com). The content of retirement benefits may include pension benefits, severance payment, accrued vacation, equity awards, representatives and beneficiaries who receive partial/full benefits upon death, and disability severance payment. Obligations and duties may contain retirement date, consulting services after retirement, general releases of claims and promise not to sue, confidentiality obligations, return of property, noncompetition, nonsolicitation, and so on. The major elements of a legal statement may include fees and expenses, tax withholding, indemnification, adherence to legal code, limited rights to revoke, definitions, and general provisions. Not all retirement contracts are as comprehensive as aforementioned. For example, quite a number of employees can only receive a public pension as their retirement benefits in Taiwan. Among these various contents of the retirement contract, pension benefit is the item of most concern, because retirees expect to receive public and/or private pension benefits upon their time of retirement. Moreover, the starting date of the retirement contract is highly related to the age of retirement. Pension benefits and retirement age are therefore the issues most studied in the literature and will be the focus of the following discussion.

Pension Benefits

Retirement with pension benefits nowadays is considered a basic right of workers in many societies. For many western countries, this right appears in national constitutions (International Labour Standards Department 2016). Retirement benefits can come from public and/or private pension systems, which are distinguishable based on their fundamental characteristics such as contributions and the financing and management of said benefits. A private pension system is normally characterized by its defined contributions (DC), undefined benefits, fully funded financing, and private management. A public pension system tends to possess the opposite characteristics such as undefined contributions and defined benefits (DB). With an increasingly aging population, enormous financial pressure has been put on public pension systems for many countries, which now are considering (or have already implemented) pension reforms such as Germany (Berkel and Börsch-Supan 2004) and Chile (Mesa-Lago and Bertranou 2016).

The literature on pension reform indicates that governments around the world have been reducing public pensions in favor of private saving plans. Traditional defined pension benefits, designed to reward long tenure, have become steadily less common, while DC pensions, which are largely portable, are spreading in popularity. DC arrangements have replaced DB plans over time, with most OECD countries offering a multipillar approach to retirement income provision that consists of modest publicly provided pensions supplemented by tax-preferred private retirement savings (Mesa-Lago 2006; Gustafson 2017). The International Labour Organization has provided guiding principles for pension levels by setting a pension’s minimum replacement rate at 45% for an average earner with 30 years of contributions.

Retirement Age

Most people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire due to health conditions or legislation concern (chapter “Mandatory Retirement Age Around the World” by Huang and Gu, this volume). Policy makers usually consider demography, fiscal cost of aging, health, life expectancy, nature of profession, supply of labor force, etc. when deciding the retirement age. Some countries set a mandatory retirement age at which employers are entitled to dismiss an employee. For example, the mandatory retirement age is 65 in Taiwan. Some countries set the minimum age as the lower bound to allow an employer to officially retire an employee. The minimum retirement age is 60 in Malaysia and 62 in Singapore. The USA abolished the mandatory retirement age in 1986, but there is still an age requirement of 65 for receiving any public pension from the US Social Security Administration.

There is a tendency for some countries to raise the retirement age due to labor force shortages as well as the fiscal sustainability of their pension system. From a financial point of view, an increase in the age of retirement would boost the number of contributors to the system while simultaneously reducing the number of beneficiaries. The trend of raising the retirement age has led researchers to analyze its effect on the employment of older workers, the effective retirement age, and pension benefits (Staubli and Zweimüller 2013; Lalive et al. 2017).

Future Directions of Research

Recent studies related to retirement benefits cover more extensive topics. For example, Manoli and Weber (2016) analyzed the effects of retirement benefits on labor supply decisions and estimated an increase in participation ranging from 0.1% to 0.3% in Austria. Using US data, Brown (2013) found that the increase in lifetime labor supply with respect to a 10% increase in the financial return to work would rise from less than an additional month in the short-run to less than an additional half year in the long-run. Other topics include when to begin receiving retirement benefits, how the growing inequality in life expectancy affects lifetime pension benefits (Auerbach et al. 2017), etc.

With respect to the retirement age, as baby boomers in the USA are now reaching retirement age, one of the key issues in recent literature is to examine the link between retirement age and pensions in order to provide useful findings for public officials and private pension managers. Both need to design policies that will reduce the burden of pension obligations on younger workers and shareholders, while still fulfilling the promises made to those nearing retirement.


Retirement contracts play a critical role in the retirement decision for every worker, with pension benefits and retirement age being two important aspects of the retirement contracts. Pension reform is a continuing process that ensures both the pension system is fiscally sustainable and the financial condition of the retirees is acceptable. More research studies on pension benefits and retirement age should be developed to make sure that pension reform is moving in the right direction.



  1. Auerbach AJ, Charles KK, Coile CC, et al (2017) How the growing gap in life expectancy may affect retirement benefits and reforms. NBER Working paper series no. 23329. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkel B, Börsch-Supan A (2004) Pension reform in Germany: the impact on retirement decisions. Public Financ Anal 60(3):393–421.  https://doi.org/10.1628/0015221042396096 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bird RC (2005) Employment as a relational contract. U Pa J Lab Emp L 8:149–217Google Scholar
  4. Brown KM (2013) The link between pensions and retirement timing: lessons from California teachers. J Public Econ 98:1–14.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2012.10.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bull C (1987) The existence of self-enforcing implicit contracts. Q J Econ 102(1):147–160.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1884685 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gustafson MT (2017) The market sensitivity of retirement and defined contribution pensions: evidence from the public sector. J Public Econ 145:1–13.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2016.11.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gustman AL, Mitchell OS, Steinmeier TL (1994) The role of pensions in the labor market: a survey of the literature. Ind Labor Relat Rev 47(3):417–438.  https://doi.org/10.1177/001979399404700304 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. International Labour Office (2017) Building social protection systems: international standards and human rights instruments. International Labour Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  9. International Labour Standards Department (2016) The right to social security in the constitutions of the world: broadening the moral and legal space for social justice. International Labour Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  10. Lalive R, Magesan A, Staubli S (2017) Raising the full retirement age: defaults vs incentives. NBER working paper. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  11. Manoli D, Weber A (2016) Nonparametric evidence on the effects of financial incentives on retirement decisions. Am Econ J Econ Pol 8(4):160–182.  https://doi.org/10.1257/pol.20140209 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mesa-Lago C (2006) Private and public pension systems compared: an evaluation of the Latin American experience. Rev Polit Econ 18(3):317–334.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09538250600797768 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mesa-Lago C, Bertranou F (2016) Pension reforms in Chile and social security principles, 1981–2015. Int Soc Secur Rev 69:25–45.  https://doi.org/10.1111/issr.12093 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Staubli S, Zweimüller J (2013) Does raising the early retirement age increase employment of older workers? J Public Econ 108:17–32.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2013.09.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNational Tsing Hua UniversityHsinchuTaiwan

Section editors and affiliations

  • Li-Hsuan Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNational Central UniversityChungliTaiwan