NETHERLANDS - Employees are increasingly prepared to keep on working until the official retirement age of 65, the Dutch ministry of Social Affairs has announced.

The latest national survey of labour conditions suggests 26% of the workers are now willing to continue until 65, which is 5% up compared to the previous year, minister Piet Hein Donner said.

Although the increased willingness to work longer is among all age categories, workers under 25 and between 45 and 49 particularly favour this option now, the survey found.

The youngest employees are most keen to work longer while workers in their early thirties and around fifty, are generally the least willing to continue until 65.

Research also found there was no significant difference between men and women in their willingness to work longer.

The results fit the cabinet's aim to keep more older staff in employment, in order to combat the effects of population ageing and a labour shortage.

Although the government has made early retirement less attractive in recent years, many pensions schemes still allow employees to stop working before they are 65.

The €221bn civil service pension fund ABP was not able to corroborate the ministerial figures. "We won't find out any earlier than the moment workers announce they are leaving," spokesman Marcel Vleugels said.

Participants who were born before 1950, can leave earlier under a transitional scheme. But as of 2011, a new ABP ‘choice scheme' will allow retirement between the age of 60 and 70. The latter group will receive a proportionally more generous pension, he explained.

"Because an increased labour participation is desirable, the survey results indicate a very positive development," Leny van der Heiden, deputy director of Dutch Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB) commented.

"It is very important that employees are encouraged to keep on working, by providing them with variety in their job, and work that matches their experience," she added.

The government study has been conducted among over 24,000 workers at the end of 2006.