Expected length of Irish working life rises to 37 years

Men are forecast to be in labour market for 40.4 years and women 33.6 years

The length of time Irish people are forecast to spend in the labour market has increased to 37 years, above the European Union average of 36.2 years, new figures from Eurostat suggest.

The figures indicate the time people aged 15 years in 2018 are expected to spend in the labour market, either employed or unemployed, throughout his or her life, Eurostat said.

The average expected duration of working life in the EU has increased by 0.3 years since 2017 and is 3.3 years longer than it was in 2000. In the Republic, it has also nudged up 0.3 years compared to a year ago and is 3.8 years longer than at the start of the century.

For men across the EU, the average expected working life duration is 38.6 years, some 4.9 years longer than for women, at 33.7 years. In the Republic, the figure for men was 40.4 years compared to 33.6 years for women, a gender gap of 6.8 years.


Sweden had the longest expected working life among EU states at 41.9 years, followed by the Netherlands at 40.5 years. On the other end of the spectrum, Italy had the shortest expected working life at 31.8 years, followed by Croatia at 32.4 years and Greece at 32.9 years.

Eurostat said there was a clear east/west division regarding the average expected duration of working life, with eastern countries tending to have shorter working life spans than ones on the western side. Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg were exceptions to the rule.

The range of average working life durations in the EU was exceeded at both ends of the range by two non-EU countries: Iceland, where it stands at 46.3 years, and Turkey, where it was calculated at 46.3 years.

Men and women

Men are expected to work longer than women in all countries except Latvia, where there is no difference, and Lithuania, where women are expected to work longer than men. The largest gender gap was found in Malta, followed by Italy.

The gap in average working life duration expectations has closed “slowly but steadily” since 2000, when it stood at 7.2 years, according to Eurostat. This is because the expected working life for women in the EU has expanded by 4.5 years since then, while for men it has increased by 2.2 years.

In the Republic, the expected average working life duration for women has increased by seven years since 2000, while the rise for men over that time has been just one year.

The duration of working life indicator is being studied in connection with the EU 2020 strategy, which is designed to help the bloc develop as “a smarter, knowledge-based, greener economy” that grows sustainably, brings social progress and creates high levels of employment.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics