Monday, July 31, 2006

Rhode Island: Unemployment Benefits and the Social Security Offset

A Providence Journal staff writer, Neil Downing, reports on the failure of Rhode Island to pass law changes (H7451
and S2902) to the offset of unemployment benefits by those receiving Social Security benefits and argues that one "shouldn't have to take a cut in unemployment benefits just because you also receive Social Security benefits. That's unjust. The rule should be scrapped."
A bill to end Rhode Island's Social Security offset was introduced in the General Assembly earlier this year--in the House by Rep. Thomas C. Slater, D-Providence, and in the Senate by Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III, D-Providence.

Neither measure passed. The House Labor Committee recommended that the proposal be held for further study.
Source: The Providence Journal MoneyLine by Neil Downing: Workers' penalty (July 30, 2006)

Flexibile Work Schedules Urged on Employers by Older Workers

Despite The conventional wisdom that working moms l lead the push to make employers more flexible, Cindy Krischer Goodman, writing for the Mcclatchy Newspapers, reports that studies are showing it is another demographic altogether--older workers--that is getting companies to create job shares, pairing older workers with young moms, restructure jobs, and adapt pension policies to allow older workers to stay on part time or as consultants.

For example, Goodman reports that Miami's Baptist Health South Florida is responding to a nursing shortage by sending out about invitations to retired nurses to return to their former jobs, even in a scaled-back capacity. Even where there are no shortages, such as for lawyers, law firms are encouraging older lawyers to remain as of counsel--a flexible arrangement that allows them to work on a few cases from home or the office, since, as one firm says, "there is a shortage of people who are experienced and have a depth of knowledge in a specialized area."

Source: The Boston Globe "Old pros are leading the charge for flexible schedules" (July 30, 2006)

Cures for Corporate Amnesia in the Oil Industry

Writing in the July 2006 issue of Practicing Oil Analysis magazine, Jason Kopschinshy, Noria Corporation, offers the oil and gas industry some suggestions for handling the “corporate amnesia”--the crunch of heuristics (discovery achieved by trial and error) gone missing--that companies will eventually feel as baby boomers retire. The industry may be one of the hardest hit, as the Oil and Gas Journal suggests that, by the year 2010, as many as 60% of experienced managers will retire from the industry.

For those seeking to ensure that production equipment is as streamlined and effective as possible, Kopschinshy suggests that procedure-based maintenance should become "a strategic and tangible method of collecting data on current maintenance, production and operating methods, analyzing the information and improving on it through technology, heuristics and proven techniques, then documenting the information in a user database." If knowledge management is not made a priority: "If we do not periodically update maintenance procedures to reflect changes in technology - machine configuration, equipment age, and changes in economic penalty of failure or machine criticality - they too will become useless over time."

Source: Practing Oil Analysis "The Real Cost of Corporate Amnesia" (July 2006)

Related articles: "Oil and Gas Industry Being Hit by Aging Workforce"; "Oil and Gas Industry: Seeking Solutions to Aging Workforce"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Canada: Conference Board Report on Aging Workforce and Employers

The Conference Board of Canada has issued an executive action report finding that almost 80% of Canadian organizations believe they will face the consequences of an aging workforce within the next five years, but few are taking steps now to address impending retirement-induced labour shortages. Although one source of labour is older workers, the report--"Too Few People, Too Little Time: The Employer Challenge of an Aging Workforce" [free registration required]--found that recruitment and retention programs and policies targeted at mature workers are applied inconsistently.
“Canadian organizations are aware that by 2015 there will not be enough qualified people to go around. For the most part, they are doing little to tackle the problem,” said Owen Parker, Senior Research Associate. “Employers will have to develop more effective ways of managing their aging workforce to maintain operational continuity.”
Half the respondents indicated that their organizations devote little or no effort to retaining their own older workers, and few employers are looking to attract retirees who may be looking for new employment possibilities.

Source: The Conference Board of Canada News Release 07-10 (July 27, 2006)

Canada: Survey Finds Older Canadians Working More

Statistics Canada has released a report--General Social Survey on Time Use, Cycle 19: Aging Well: Time Use Patterns of Older Canadians--finding that more individuals aged 55 to 64 were working later in life and spending less time in leisure activities in 2005. In fact, both men and women were spending roughly an hour a day more in paid work than they were in 1998.

Older Canadians--those aged 65 to 74--devoted much less time to paid work than they did when they were 55 to 64, with men devoting about an hour a day on average to paid work, well below the 4.4 hours for the age group 55 to 64. The survey showed that time use patterns within this age group did not change substantially between 1992 and 2005, with only a small increase in the amount of paid work.

Source: Statistics Canada The Daily (July 28, 2006)

Other remarks: Ottowa Sun (July 27, 2006); Canadian HR Reporter (July 28, 2006)

Taiwan: Panel Recommends Labor Participation Rate of Older Workers

As part of its broad vision of development for Taiwan's industries through 2015 in order to raise their competitiveness and guide them to increase their level of domestic investment, the Panel on Enhancing Industrial Competitiveness has reached broad consensuses on three issues that are critical to economic investment, including the labor market and human resources. As part of this, the Panel has concluded:
The rate of employment of the middle-aged and elderly should be increased and the phenomenon of premature withdrawal from the labor market should be rectified. Barriers to employment for the middle-aged and elderly should be eliminated, systems currently in place concerning retirement be amended, and the minimum retirement age be raised.
Source: Panel on Enhancing Industrial Competitiveness Key Conclusions of the Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development (July 27, 2006)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Europe: Aging Population Putting Pressure on Pensions, Governments

Verionka Oleksyn, writing for the Associated Press, reports Austria's social affairs minister as warning that by 2010--just four years from now--there will be more 55- to 64-year-olds than 15- to 24-year-olds in the European Union. Coupled with a falling birth rate, European lawmakers are struggling with "how to financially shoulder the burden of an aging society while staying competitive globally and finding workable incentives for people to have more babies."
According to a recent EU report, the bloc's working age population is projected to fall by 48 million, or 16 percent, between 2010 and 2050, while the number of seniors is expected to rise sharply by 58 million, or 77 percent.

Europe will go from having four people of working age for every senior citizen to a ratio of two to one by 2050, predicts the report by the Economic Policy Committee and the European Commission.
Oleksyn also writes that because general taxation is expected to come up short to pay for retirement benefits and healthcare, governments are looking into options such as mandatory retirement savings and insurance programs, or even spending less on the younger generation.

Source: Miami Herald "Aging Europe faces economic hurdle" (July 24, 2006)

Monday, July 24, 2006

UBS Financial Seeking Boomers as Financial Advisers

Richard Craver, writing for the Winston-Salem Journal reports that the Winston-Salem (NC) office of UBS Financial Services Inc. has been actively recruiting employees 50 and over for positions as financial advisers. Even though most of them have lacked professional financial-services skills before being trained by UBS, the manager of the UBS office thinks that it makes perfect sense to have a baby boomer sitting across the table to provide financial and wealth-management advice to a clients preparing for life after retirement.

Craver writes that "[a]nalysts said that UBS' strategy bucks the hiring strategy of many financial-services companies, where younger advisers are considered a cost-efficient means for assisting clients" and suggests that it "runs counter to the trend of financial officials considering their early- to mid-50s as prime retirement time rather than the time to start a new career." However, he quotes the manager as saying "we want advisers who have been through, or are dealing with, the same life experiences as our clients. . . . Those shared experiences, whether saving for retirement, paying for college or preparing to transfer wealth to the next generation, can build up a relationship, and ultimately trust, with a client."

Source: Winston-Salem Journal "AGING FORCE: UBS takes on older workers" (July 23, 2006)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nursing Faculty Shortages Partly Attributable to Aging Workforce

The National League of Nursing has issued "Nurse Educators 2006: A Report of the Faculty Census Survey of RN and Graduate Programs" with research showing that the aging of the faculty population is one of three cirtical factors in the growing nurse faculty vacancies.

Nursing programs in the study "indicated that almost two thirds of all full-time nurse faculty members were 45 to 60 years old and likely to retire in the next five to 15 years. A mean of 1.4 full-time faculty left their positions in 2006; nearly one quarter of these were due to retirement."

Source: PrWeb Press Release (July 23, 2006)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Survey: Aging Workforce and Technology to Help Skills Gap

Knowledge Infusion has announced the preliminary results of a survey of 375 organizations on how they are positioned to react to the aging workforce, upcoming baby-boomer retirements, and looming shortage of skilled workers. Among other things, 74% of respondents indicate that the aging workforce will somewhat or greatly impact their organization’s ability to execute goals and strategy by 2010.

The survey also found that 50% of organizations indicate that retirements will cause a knowledge/skill gap, which many believe will lead to reduced capacity, lower quality of work, and increased expenses associated with attracting and retaining skilled workers. The top three operations in place to address the knowledge/skill gap are automating processes, formalizing succession planning programs, and mentoring programs.
“There is a clear need for organizations to understand the role technology can play in the management of their workforce in addressing upcoming retirements, knowledge transfer, and the shortage of skilled workers,” said Heidi Spirgi, President of Knowledge Infusion. “We see customers succeeding when they have a well developed and holistic plan for managing talent that is tied to technology.”
The full results will be released at a live webinar, sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand, on July 26, 2006 at 2:00 Eastern.

Source: Knowledge Infusion Press Releases (July 20, 2006)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TVA: Case Study of Capturing Retirees' Knowledge

Fortune Magazine senior writer Anne Fisher writes about how one government agency--the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)--has found a better way to pass on critical know-how rather than letting workers take it out the door when they retire. According to Fisher, "TVA began several years ago to tackle a problem most big U.S. employers are only now beginning to ponder: an aging workforce that, within five years, will begin taking enormous amounts" of knowledge with them from the workplace.
Starting in 1999, the TVA broke down the daunting task of retaining knowledge into manageable parts, by asking line managers three questions:
  • What knowledge is likely to be lost when particular employees leave? ("What?")
  • What will be the business consequences of losing that knowledge? ("So what?")
  • And what can be done to prevent or minimize the damage? ("Now what?")
Among other things, TVA asked and convinced employees to let them know about their retirement plans and then gave employees scores based on how soon that would occur, while plant managers scored the employees on how critical their knowledge was. That way it was easy to see where there was a need to take immediate action and get people to pass on knowledge.

Source: Fortune.com "How to plug your company's brain drain" (July 19, 2006)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Korea: Over-50 Workforce Becomes Largest Segment

According to Korea's National Statistical Office (NSO), the number of workers over 50 surpassed the working population of those in their 30's and 40's for the first time--the number of workers over 50 stands at about 6.5 million, or 27.7% of the workforce, as compared to 6.2 million, or 26.5%, in their 30's and 6.45 million, or 27.6%, in their 40's. Out of workers over 50, 3.89 million were in their 50s and 2.61 million were over 60.

Source: The Hankyoreh "People over 50 emerge as mainstream workforce" (July 18, 2006)

United Kingdom: Employers Remain Strongly Committed to Pensions

According to a major new survey published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Mercer Human Resource Consulting. UK companies remain committed to providing pensions for staff despite the continuing high costs. Specifically, while 57% of surveyed firms make defined beenfit (DB) pensions available to existing employees but only 16% do so for new staff, "the burgeoning level of contributions companies are making to [DB pensions] is having a significant impact on the money businesses have available to invest for the future and is hitting profits."

Firms with DB schemes continue to experience high levels of pensions costs, with the survey showing that, on average, firms with DB schemes are putting the equivalent of 19.6% of employees’ pay into schemes to fund future benefits and deficits. Nevertheless, this survey of 355 CEOs, chairmen and senior board members (employing 900,000 staff amongst them) reveals that over 86% of employers want to see staff reach retirement with adequate savings and 81% believe a company should play a part in raising understanding of the importance of planning for retirement.

Source: Confederation of British Industry Press Release (June 17, 2006)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Do Employers Want to Hire Older Workers?

Following the lead of a New Yorker cartoon, Robert Powell writes in MarketWatch that "work--for many Americans--is the new retirement plan." He cites the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College report to suggest, however, that some employers do not want older employees: "Specifically, small employers, those with 100 or fewer employees, and large employers, those with 1,000 or more employees, as well as "young" organizations are generally less fond of older workers be they white-collar or rank-and-file."

According to Bob Morison, executive vice president of The Concours Group, "older workers are, indeed, more satisfied with their jobs, better adjusted on the job, and more engaged in their work and with their employers than the young or midcareer cohorts are," but 4 in 10 employers say older workers are more expensive than someone younger. Morison suggests that employers could reduce the cost of hiring older workers if they focus on Medicare-eligible prospects:
"The cost picture changes dramatically for working retirees who have reached the Medicare eligibility age or who have already retired with health benefits covered," he said. "Providing a bit of supplemental coverage for workers in this category is much cheaper than providing more extensive benefits to younger employees. A smart company hires the other guy's well-benefited retirees."
Source: MarketWatch "Older workers win praise, but winning jobs is another matter" (July 14, 2006)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Survey: Employer Attitudes towards Older Workers

Older workers have reasonably good prospects for extending their working careers according to a new survey of employers by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Employer Attitudes towards Older Workers: Survey Results, Issues in Brief No. 3, authored by Alicia H. Munnell (the Center's director), Steven A. Sass, and Mauricio Soto, reports that 80% of employers said older workers were “as attractive” or “more attractive” than younger employees.

While Munnell said “the survey results are encouraging given that many people nearing traditional retirement ages will need to work longer to ensure their retirement income security,” the survey results also raise two important cautions. First, older rank-and-file workers, who face the greatest retirement income challenge, appear to have weaker employment prospects than older white-collar workers. Second, other surveys have shown that positive evaluations of the productiv¬ity of older workers do not necessarily translate into actual employment opportunities.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Press Release (July 11, 2006)

Veterinarians Hit by Aging Workforce

Mikel Alerman writes in CollegiateTimes that the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has completed a comprehensive study on the current and future state of the large animal veterinary profession and found a gradual decline due to the fact that nearly half of the state and federal veterinarians are nearing or are eligible for retirement.

"According to [Virginia Tech Dean of Veterinary Medicine Grant H.] Turnwald, the gradual decline of professionals in this field is due to the changing demographics and decline in rural population. This combination has caused a disinterest and decreasing number of students in this field."

Source: Blacksburg (VA) Collegiate Times "Number Of Veterinarians Continues To Decline" (June 28, 2006)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Upstate NY Workforce Retirements Will Outpace Nation

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Buffalo, in a report "Baby-Boom Retirements and Emerging Labor Market Pressures," said some sectors of upstate New York's economy, especially education and health care, will experience labor shortages between now and 2012. According to Fed economist Richard Deitz, "[a]s retirements accelerate over the next several years, upstate New York may begin to face labor market pressures in an environment of little economic growth as it competes with other parts of the country for key workers in high-demand occupations."
In particular, employers seeking workers in services used by an aging population and provided through personal contact--including health care, community and social services, and personal care and service—are likely to face the most significant labor market challenges.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York Upstate New York Regional Review (July 2006)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

China: Encouraging Retirement?

According to China Daily, the weekly magazine Liaowang (Lookout) recently carried an article in which some scholars suggested that China should alleviate its social welfare financial burden by making more people retire at an earlier age. "However, some experts objected to this suggestion. In their opinion, in order to reduce the pressure adding on China's welfare system, the most important task should be getting rid of all those abnormal 'early retirement policies'. In some specific areas, the work units could set a time range for retirement age so that people could arrange their life in a better way."

The article also notes that Secretary-general of the Social Policy Research Center from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and researcher from the Social Research Institute Tang Jun said that in China, aging problem is not as serious as in the West. Among other things, China has a large base number for labor resources--even in 2015-2020 when China's labor resources would reach its lowest point as some people predicted, there would still be 750 million working population available in China then.

Source: China Daily "More people encouraged to retire" (July 11, 2006)

Survey: U.S. Businesses Lose up to $33 Billion from Lost Productivity of Working Caregivers

According to a new study from MetLife Mature Market Institute®, the cost to U.S. business due to lost productivity of working caregivers is $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion per year. The MetLife Caregiving Costs Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business, produced in conjunction with the National Alliance for Caregiving, reports that the average caregiver costs an employer $2,110 per year. "For those caregivers providing the most intense levels of care, the cost per employee is $2,441, totaling $17.1 billion. The total annual cost for all caregivers is $33.6 billion."

Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, notes that “[e]mployer costs related to caregiving are often hidden ones and can be significant. To stem the losses, employers should consider implementing eldercare programs for employees with a focus on individualized care planning and flexible work arrangements. It also helps when managers and supervisors are sensitive to caregivers’ needs; that sensitivity often leads to increased worker productivity.”

Included among the costs included by the survey are replacing employees , absenteeism , partial absenteeism, workday interruptions, eldercare crisis, supervisor time, and unpaid leave. Employers large and small who would like to calculate how much caregiving costs their business in lost productivity each year, can log onto a workplace productivity calculator prepared in conjunction with the study at: www.eldercarecalculator.org.

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute® Press Release (July 11, 2006) [Word document, also available as HTML at Business Wire]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Redistributing Work in Aging Europe

Scientists of the Rostock Center for the Study of Demographic Change show in an article published in "Science" (Vol. 313, Edition 5782) that the total number of hours worked will be reduced soon, should the low participation of the elderly in the labor market continue. To keep the ratio of workers to non-workers and the number of hours worked per capita at current levels, work needs to be distributed more evenly over the ages of life and it needs to become more flexible.

According to James W. Vaupel, Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), and Elke Loichinger, demographic change and the ensuing consequences for the labor market and macroeconomic development are challenging society and politics. Taking Germany as an example, they show that as early as in 20 years from now, the hours worked per capita will be reduced by 8 percent, should the few young continue to work a lot and the many elderly continue to work a little.
Future generations may wonder about the way we concentrate learning in the first phase of life, work in the middle of life, and leisure in the later years, when our children no longer need us, Vaupel and Loichinger point out. The rigid patterns of biographies and the low employment rates at older ages are no longer sustainable in the face of demographic change. "The 20th century was a century of redistribution of income; the 21st century will be a century of redistribution of work", says James W. Vaupel.
Source: Max Planck Society Press Release (June 30, 2006)

Japan: Slowing Retirement; Is It Working?

In an effort to slow retirements in Japan, the government recently revised legislation to require companies to choose one of three options: push back the retirement age to 65, abolish retirement age altogether or give would-be retirees the option to work part time. According to a Reuters report, a "survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare last month showed that 96 percent of companies polled had abided by those changes, but some economists expressed doubts that a fundamental change would occur."
"The legal changes are flawed because there's no punishment for failing to follow through with them," said Tomoyuki Ohta, senior economist at the Mizuho Research Institute. "I doubt the measure will stop many baby boomers from retiring, and once they're out of a job, it would be difficult for them to find new work with conditions they'd be satisfied with."

A Mizuho Research survey of 787 companies showed that on average, about 22 percent said they would continue employing all retirement-age workers who opted to stay, while the rest said they would keep only those qualified or deemed indispensable.
Source: International Herald Tribune "Japan tries to fill gaps before retirement surge" (July 10, 2006)