The employment rate of older workers in Belgium is low, compared to other European countries. For some years now, international organizations have been concerned about the viability of pension systems and their ability to achieve their objectives. In Belgium, as in the European Union, the government introduced (at the beginning of 2000) a series of measures aimed at encouraging older people to remain in or to re-enter the labour market.

The aim of this paper is to show how transformations of public policy as regards retirement are contrary to both individuals' aspirations and changing professional constraints. The low employment rate of older workers is explained by public policy initiatives of the State at a given time and by the situation of individuals. Early retirement from the labour market is analysed using data from a more micro-sociological perspective, that is, either a desire to leave professional life to pursue other aspirations or other projects outside the professional sphere, or because of deteriorating working conditions in their professional life.

This paper clearly shows how reducing working time at the end of a career can be an interesting alternative to the policies that are currently in force.


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