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Phased retirement programs still rare, GAO finds

Even as more baby boomers are moving into retirement and employers consider ways to keep that expertise, phased retirement programs remain uncommon, according to a Government Accountability Office study released Thursday.

The U.S. Special Committee on Aging asked the GAO to review work patterns of older Americans. More than half of the experts the GAO interviewed said that industries with skilled workers or with labor shortages are motivated to offer phased retirement because their workers are hard to replace

To complete the study, the GAO analyzed data from two nationally representative surveys, the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study (2004-2014) and the federal Current Population Survey (2005- 2016). It also interviewed nine employers who offer or considered offering phased retirement programs as well as 16 experts on retirement.

Phased programs are more common among employers with larger or technical and professional workforces, in sectors such as education, consulting and high technology, the study found.

GAO analysts also found that while participation of older workers in the labor market has increased in the last decade, only a quarter of workers ages 61 to 66 planned to reduce hours as they transitioned to retirement. Fewer than 15% reported being partly retired or gradually retiring from their career jobs.

The GAO report, which did not have recommendations, noted that "formal phased retirement programs present design and operational challenges for employers, including compliance with provisions and laws related to discrimination."

The report is available on the GAO website.