Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Global: Employers and Nations Putting Retired Back to Work

In an article for Newsweek international, Stefan Theil writes that "many of the rich world's notions about old age are dying. While the streamlining effects of international competition are focusing attention on the need to create and keep good jobs, those fears will eventually give way to worries about the growing shortage of young workers. One unavoidable solution: putting older people back to work, whether they like it or not." Writing on the eve of the 36th World Economic Forum, Theil notes that "the global labor market won't wait for politicians or protesters to come around" and provides a number of examples of corporate responses:
DaimlerChrysler, whose share of over-45 workers will have risen from 41 percent in 2002 to 68 percent in 2011, has set up an Aging Workers Task Force, made up of human-resources managers and health counselors whose main job is to make sure that employees stay productive longer. Personnel services like Swiss-based Adecco have introduced "demographic fitness tests" for their clients to help them judge whether they have the tools in place to attract and productively employ qualified older workers. "Age-ism in the workplace is a danger to corporate productivity," warns Adecco, which recommends replacing sudden retirement with a flexible system allowing workers to work part time into their late 60s or beyond.

The Ford Motor Co. expects that the number of workers older than 50 will double in its European plants by 2008, and has set up an "early-warning system" to deal with staff-aging issues. "With the coming shortage of young, skilled staff, we will have to live with our aging employees," says Erich Knulle, health services director and demographics point man at Ford's European headquarters in Cologne, Germany.
Among the national responses discussed, Thiel draws attention to Finland where, when recession hit in the early 1990s, only 20% of Finns between the ages of 60 and 64 were working. Since then Finland has introduced "bonus pensions" for people working until 68, giving them a financial incentive to continue working—and paying taxes.

Source: "The New Old Age" Newsweek: International Edition (January 30, 2006)

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