EUROPE - A third of workers in Europe would rather retire early and receive less income than continue working past the existing national retirement age, according to research by Aon Consulting.

The firm's survey of 7,279 workers in nine EU countries, including Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK, also found that a quarter of respondents were willing to supplement their pensions by paying for additional financial products.

The research also showed that 34% of individuals accepted that the minimum retirement age for the state pension would need to be raised beyond 65.

Irish workers were the most accepting of the need to retire later, with 46% stating they were "okay" with retiring later. Meanwhile 45% of employees in the UK and Denmark said they expected an increase in the retirement age. 

The survey, which forms part of Aon's European Employee Benefits Benchmark, also highlighted that only 18% of Spanish workers were willing to retire later, with 33% of these preferring to retire early on less money, a sentiment shared by 42% of Dutch workers and 38% of Belgian employees.

German workers seemrd the most likely to make an effort to supplement their pension income with 49% intending to buy additional cover such as an annuity at their own expense.

This contrasts with an average of 26% across the nine countries, although 43% of Spaniards and 38% of French workers plan to follow their German counterparts. Employees in the UK and Ireland, however, were less likely to take responsibility, with the number planning to buy additional financial tools reaching 15% and 13%, respectively.

Oliver Rowlands, head of retirement EMEA at Aon, said: "The turbulent economic environment of the past few years has really forced people and governments to take stock, look at their and their nation's retirement plans and evaluate whether they will be ready for an ageing population." 

He said Europeans are living longer, more productive lives than previous generations so there is no longer a specific need to retire in their early sixties. And in some cases workers may be forced to work longer for other reasons. He cited the UK as an example, where fluctuations in the equity markets mean workers with defined contribution (DC) pensions "are still not back to the same levels of saving before the financial crisis began". 

Rowlands added: "European employers should be aware that older workers bring a wealth of experience and may want to adopt a strategy for accommodating part-time working or job-sharing."