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Social inequality in working life expectancy in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Roland Kadefors
K Nilsson
P-O Östergren
L Rylander
M Albin
Published in Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie
Volume 52
Issue (Suppl 1)
Pages 52-61
ISSN 0948-6704
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Centre for Ageing and Health (Agecap)
Pages 52-61
Language en
Keywords retirement, socioeconomic class, disability pension, health, ancestry
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health, Community medicine, Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy, Work Sciences


Background In Sweden, there is a socioeconomic divide between white and blue collars with respect to risk for premature work life exits. Disability pension has long represented a major reason behind early exits. Objectives The present investigation aimed at studying the effect on socioeconomic groups of new guidelines issued by the Swedish government in 2006, limiting the possibilities for applicants to be granted pension on medical grounds. Material and method The study was based on register data comprising the prevalence in the age group 55-64 years of disability pension and premature age pension in different occupations, comparing the years 2006 and 2011. Results It was found that in 2011 under the new guidelines, newly approved disability pensions had dropped by 70%. Women were affected more than men. The drop in disability pensions affected applicants within the two most prevalent diagnosis chapters, mental disorders (a drop by 58 %) and musculoskeletal disorders (a drop by 87 %). In the same time period, the percentage in the age range 55-64 years choosing premature age pension more than doubled. An increase in the number of premature age pensions was more common in blue collar occupational groups than in white collars. Occupation had a higher impact on working life expectancy than country of birth. Conclusion There are strong indications that many applicants, particularly blue collars, who had been unable to be granted disability pension under the new operational guidelines instead choose premature age pension, a costly alternative for many individuals with already low pension benefits. Our results indicate a tendency of passing on the societal costs of early labour market exits to different economic compensation arrangements, as well as to the individuals themselves.

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