Paths to Retirement. Work Histories of the Elderly in Italy

The aim of this paper is to challenge a rather common but stereotyped opinion, according to which the elderly in Italy live their last working years with a smooth transition from stable jobs into retirement. I use the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) to put the main stylized facts about the transition into retirement in Italy into a European Perspective. The ECHP, however, does not allow to track with a satisfactory level of detail many relevant mobility events that may characterize the elderly’s job histories. To get deeper into the subject, I turn to two longitudinal datasets of administrative source, covering the working careers in the Italian private sector for the years 1985-1996. Preliminary results on this archives show that – besides those whose transition from work to retirement occurs painlessly (who nonetheless represent the majority of cases) – there is a large number of workers whose final working years are marked by an irregular pattern of labour market activity. Trying and sorting out the high heterogeneity among the individual histories, we arrive to a classification of the most typical paths towards retirement that can be observed. Important cases include (i) people having multiple job spells at the end of their career; (ii) people who transit directly form periods of time on temporary lay-off (cassa integrazione) and on layoff lists (liste di mobilità) to retirement; (iii) people who experience long spells of unemployment without any benefit. The same paths are analyzed along the main individual and job characteristics, showing important differences particularly across geographical areas.