Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors in the E.U. Workforce and Demographics. A closer look at Germany
The underlying level of breast cancer in Germany is about the same as that of its immediate neighbors, which is already large. Germany’s burden, however, is multiplied by the country’s demographic aging, which has given the highest median age in Europe.
The numbers show the extent of the issue. Germany’s age-standardized breast cancer incidence, at 91.6 per 100,000, 2 exceeds the average for western Europe (91.1) and of nearby northern Europe (89.4) only slightly. These numbers are substantial—Germany has the 11th-highest age- standardized incidence globally—but they are consistent with those of similar developed countries.
The crude incidence statistics, which do not adjust for Germany’s older population, tell a very different story.
Germany’s incidence figure, at 171.5 per 100,000 women in 2012, is the world’s third-highest and well above the EU’s figure of 139.5. However, Germany has a modern healthcare system, which explains its five-year survival rate of 88% in 20123—about the norm for wealthy countries. The net result is a high number of survivors. The five-year prevalence figure is 765.7 per 100,000, but because of Germany’s large population, the absolute number of such survivors in the country, nearly 280,000, is Europe’s highest.
Changes in employment laws and patterns make these crude incidence and prevalence figures of particular relevance for workforce issues. To address the implications of its aging population and its tradition of early retirement, Germany enacted two reforms in the previous decade. First, it reduced
significantly the maximum duration of unemployment bene t payments to people aged 55 and older, from 36 to 18-24 months according to their age and duration of employment, making what had been used as an early bridge to retirement less attractive. Second, in 2012 the country began raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, a process that will finish in 2029. In 2017 the retirement age is already 65 years and 6 months.
These changes have had the desired effect on workforce participation levels for older Germans. According to OECD data, although the population-wide labour force participation rate barely changed between 2006 and 2015—going from 75% to 77.6%—among women aged 40-64 it grew from 70.2% to 76.5%, bringing the latter figure in line with the overall rate. The increase in employment among older women occurred almost entirely among those aged over 50 and was particularly marked among those aged 60-64, for whom the participation rate more than doubled, from 24.4% in 2006 to 50.2% in 2015. Read more