Monday, March 03, 2008

Poland: Older Workers Offer Solution to Demographic Challenge, but Must Overcome Prejudices Against Them

Following on the Polish government's proposals to help make people over the age of 50 more active in the workforce, the Warsaw Business Journal has published an article looking at the demographic challenge facing the Polish labor market. While noting that older workers could be what employers are looking for--offering experience, loyalty and flexibility, the article also suggests that "first the significant obstacle of prejudice must be overcome."

Only 41.5% of people aged 50 to 64 were professionally active in 2006, making Poland's employment rate for this group one of the lowest in the European Union, only beating out Malta. According to an Ipsos Poland survey done for Academy for the Development of Philanthropy (ARFwP), high unemployment in the 1990's and the beginning of the 2000's decade forced a large number of older people to exit the workforce in order to accommodate the younger generation, a trend that was further increased by high labor costs.

According to the Warsaw Business Journal article, labor market experts believe "the government's program is not enough to retain seniors in the workforce or lure them back." Instead, Poland needs a wide range of coordinated initiatives, such as the development of NGOs that would specialize in issues facing older people, such as the AARP in the United States.

On another front, employers also need to show more good will and flexibility in the employment of seniors. However, mere sympathy and pity are not arguments which appeal to entrepreneurs, according to Joanna Tokarz, project coordinator at ARFwP. She is quoted as saying: "The employer has to think in terms of the market, and they should be shown the benefits of employing over-50s in the first place." To enable this ARFwP has launched a project called Zysk z dojrzałości ("Profit from Maturity") in cooperation with Britain's Beth Johnson Foundation, to promote "age friendly" strategies and age-management solutions among employers.

Source: Warsaw Business Journal "Veteran workforce" (March 3, 2008)

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