Friday, January 30, 2009

Alabama: Census Bureau Issues Profile of the Older Worker

In a continuation of its partnership with 31 states on a series of reports on workers 55 and older, the Census Bureau has released its report on Alabama, the 29th state to be released in the series. Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in Alabama: 2004":
  • 14.2% of workers were 55 and older, while 3.1% were 65 and older;
  • statewide, the educational services industry had the highest proportion of or workers 55 and older, with 22.3% or more of its workers in that age group, followed by mining, with 20.6% in that age group; and
  • the state's manufacturing industry employed the greatest number of older workers, with about 20.2% of the workers 55 and older being in that sector.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics What's New (January 29, 2009)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

California: Census Bureau Issues Profile of the Older Worker

In a continuation of its partnership with 31 states on a series of reports on workers 55 and older, the Census Bureau has released its report on California, the 28th state to be released in the series. Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in California: 2004":
  • 13.3% of workers were 55 and older, while 3.1% were 65 and older;
  • statewide, the educational services industry had the highest proportion of or workers 55 and older, but no industry had 20% or more of its workers in that age group; and
  • the state's manufacturing industry employed the greatest number of older workers, with about 13.6% of the workers 55 and older being in that sector.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics What's New (January 26, 2009)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

United Kingdom: Research Suggests Older Workers a Key During Economic Downturn

Research commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council is being used to urge West Midlands employers to take full advantage of the skills and experience of older workers (those aged 50 to 70) during the economic downturn. According to "Labour Market and Training Experiences of Older Workers in the West Midlands ", employers are increasingly aware of the benefits of older job applicants when searching for recruits with personal qualities such as loyalty, experience and reliability. In addition, older workers provide employers with practical advantages such as better retention, fewer training needs, and fewer family and childcare commitments.

Among other findings of the research study:
  • the older people are, the more likely they are to have no qualifications. Nearly 60% of people aged 60 to 64 have no qualifications, a proportion that rises steadily from 26% among those aged between 40 and 44;
  • although most employed older workers had a positive attitude to work, this was balanced by reservations about stress and excessive paperwork;
  • a large proportion of employed participants believed that larger employers offer more advantages to older workers, including clearer progression routes and better policies on issues such as flexible working and job-sharing.
Source: West Midlands Learning and Skills Council Press Release (January 23, 2009)

Friday, January 23, 2009

United Kingdom: Older Workers Facing Higher Layoffs in Recession

According to Age Concern, older workers are experiencing job loss at rates more than twice that of any other group. Citing government statistics that, from September to November‚ unemployment of up to 6 months increased by 29.8% for those aged 50 plus‚ 4.8% for those 25-49‚ 12.2% for 18-24 year-olds‚ and -0.9% for 16-17 year-olds, Age Concern warned that "that older workers are facing a dual blow of rising unemployment and forced retirement‚ which could make them amongst the biggest 'job-cut casualties' of the forthcoming recession."

Older workers were disproportionately affected by job cuts in the last two recessions. In addition, Age Concern research shows this is a huge concern with half of workers aged 55 and over being worried they are more at risk of losing their job because of their age and almost nine out of 10 people thinking it is harder for older jobseekers to get a job. To avoid mistakes made in previous recessions, Gordon Lishman‚ Director General of Age Concern, called on the government to help older people as a group particularly, repeating calls to scrap the default retirement age and seeking more tailored and immediate support‚ training and advice for older workers.

Source: Age Concern News Release (January 21, 2009)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Research: Dissertation Questions Whether Longer Working Life is Good for Everyone

According to a doctoral thesis written by Björn Ohlsson for the Department of Ethnology, University of Gothenburg, following life history interviews with 16 workers aged between 49 and 62 at Volvo's Torslanda plant, a prolonged working life is not seen as desirable by the workers for three main reasons: health issues brought about through long-term physical labour, especially as regards the women, less motivation caused by a sense of subordination, diminished influence and fewer opportunities at work when ageing, and finally the frequent pension scheme offers by the company.

In "We who stayed at Volvo--an ethnological study of senior automobile-industry blue-collar workers' working-lives and future plans" (and see English summary), Ohlsson reveals that things can be particularly tough for certain groups of industrial workers. This is due to the fact that they have had a long and arduous working life, and that changes in the workplace have resulted in diminished opportunities for older people to stay on. While the thesis reports that all of them want to retire before 65, they stress how much work has meant to them, and to some extent, how much it still means. they emphasize in particular the sense of community that exists in a workplace, and the experience of continuity that work provides. In addition, the relatively well paid work has provided them with the opportunity to create a good life materially with a sense of pride and dignity.

See also Arkipelag, which is publishing the thesis.

Source: University of Gothenburg Press Release (January 20, 2009);

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Research Report Assesses Impact of Recession on Older Workers

Looking into the questions about how older workers are faring in the current economy and how their fate relative to younger workers compares to the past, researchers at Boston College have note that while labor force participation among older workers has been rising since the early 1990s, the edge that older workers used to have relative to younger workers when it comes to layoffs seems to have disappeared, so the rise in the unemployment rate for older workers in recessions now looks similar to that for younger workers.

According to "Recessions and Older Workers", authored by Alicia H. Munnell, Dan Muldoon, and Steven A. Sass, as the current recession deepens, the employment rate of older workers could fall well below its level at the peak of the previous expansion. On the other hand, these rates could again rise sharply when the economy recovers.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Issue Brief No. 9-2 (January 2009)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

United States: Unemployment of Older (65 Plus) Workers Increases

According to unemployment statistics from December 2008, the current economic slowdown has substantially increased the unemployment rate for older Americans. In the fact sheet prepared for the Urban Institute, "Senior Unemployment Rate Hits 31-Year High", unlike most previous recessions, Richard W. Johnson points out that 5.1% of workers age 65 and older were unemployed, a higher share than at any time since March 1977.

In the current recession, the age-65-and-older unemployment rate has increased by 1.7 percentage points since November 2007, the last month before it began, while 13 months into the severe 1981–82 recession—-the most recent downturn to have lasted as long as the current one—-the number of unemployed older adults had not increased at all. However, Johnson points out that "the recession has not yet discouraged many older job seekers. Since November 2007, the share of adults not in the labor force has not declined at ages 55 to 64 or at ages 65 and older."

Source: Urban Institute Research Summary (January 14, 2009)

Research: Why is Retirement so Abrupt?

In an Institute of Economic Affairs discussion paper, John S. Heywood and W. Stanley Siebert examine the labour market for older workers and ask why retirement is so abrupt and what can we do about it. They focus on the United Kingdom's employment equality (age) regulations and whether they are likely to help the functioning of the market for older workers.

In "Understanding the Labour Market for Older Workers", the authors determined that the abuptness of retirement is due, historically, to the fact that in most countries it has been difficult to work and receive a pension. Pension rules discourage on-going relationships with existing employers, despite the fact that those employers have already paid the fixed costs associated with hiring and training and it was to those firms that the workers are most valuable. The find, however, that the situation has changed for the better, at least in the UK.

Source: Institute of Economic Affairs Discussion Paper No. 23 Abstract (November 30, 2008)

Research Shows Workplace Benefits of Flu Vaccination of Older Workers

Workers age 50-64 who received influenza vaccine lost substantially fewer days of work and worked fewer days while ill, according to a study published in the February 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. As reported in "Burden of Influenza-Like Illness and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccination among Working Adults Aged 50–64 Years", among unvaccinated study participants, influenza-like illnesses were associated with 45% of all days of illness during the flu season, but, with vaccination, a substantial reduction of almost 45% in the risk of illness was observed as well as a reduction of more than 60% in the numbers of days of illness, work loss, working while ill, and days in bed.
According to study author Kristin Nichol, MD, of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "The implications are that the prevention of influenza-like illnesses can have a huge impact on the health and work productivity of adults 50 to 64, and we should do more to make sure that this high priority group is vaccinated. It is a win-win for the worker with fewer illnesses, days of illness, days in bed, etc. and for the employer with improved worker productivity."
Sources: Infectious Diseases Society of America Public Release (January 13, 2009); Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy "Study finds flu vaccine benefits for older workers" (January 14, 2009)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Canada: Study Finds Current Economic Downturn Will Not Solve Demographic Problems; Governments Must Switch Gears

The current economic slowdown may help ease, but will not stop the coming shortage of
available workers in Nova Scotia, specificially, and in Canada, generally. According to the report "The Developing Workforce Problem: Confronting Canadian Labour Shortages in the Coming Decades" prepared by Dalhousie University Professor Emeritus Dr. Jim McNiven for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), Canada would need "a sustained recession over some 20 years to cope with the demographic crunch we have created for ourselves."

The combination of the baby boom generation aging and hitting traditional retirement age, the decline in birth rates, the failure of immigration to pick up the slack, and stagnant productivity mean that government policy must be overhauled. Programs that helped boomers, such as job creation, employment insurance, and nearly retirement all helped open jobs for the boomers are no longer what is needed. Instead, McNiven suggests a combination of approaches to alleviate the pending crisis:
  • better immigration and child care policies to increase the population;
  • encourage an increase in the productivity rate; and
  • increase the labour force participation rate by reaching out to segments of the population with traditional low rates and encourage people to stay working beyond "Freedom 55."
Sources: Atlantic Institute for Market Studies Media Release (January 7, 2009); Halifax Chronicle Herald "Freedom 85, or why you’ll work forever" (January 10, 2009)

Singapore: Survey Shows Many Boomers Want To Work Past Retirement Age

The "first ever" survey of baby boomers in Singapore finds that boomers want to remain active in their "golden years." According to the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, more than 70% of boomers (those aged 43 to 60) were in the workforce or looking for work, almost half wished to or expected to have to work as long as they could, and, among those who specified an age at which to retire from work, about 30% expected to do so at age 65 or older, beyond the current retirement age of 62.

With respect to continued work, 36% of boomers desired to work part time. In addition, the top three conditions that these boomers look for in post-retirement work were flexible work, similar income, and fewer hours of work. For university-educated boomers, a stimulating workplace and the chance to guide or mentor younger workers were more important attributes than income continuity and work hours.

Sources: Ministry of Community Development and Sports Press Release (January 9, 2009); Channel News Asia "Survey shows 3 in 10 expect to retire at age 65 or older" (January 9, 2009)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Singapore: Prime Minister Reenforces Need for Employers to Retain Older Workers

Addressing the AARP-Council for Third Age Conference "Reinventing Retirement Asia", Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged employers to let seniors work longer, focusing on legislation that will require employers to offer re-employment to workers for three more years (until 65), though not necessarily at the same job or pay. According to Lee, "[t]he best way for people to adjust to longer lifespans is to continue working for as long as they can, and to keep themselves occupied after formal retirement."

With respect to retirement age, Lee said that government has only limited abilities to change habits. Thus, even though Singapore's official retirement age is 62, only six out of every ten men are still working at 62, the rest having already retired earlier, while even fewer women work till 62, most having dropped out of the workforce much earlier to raise their families. Accordingly, Singapore is not legislating to further delay the retirement age, but to require employers to offer re-employment to workers at 62 for another three years until 65, though not necessarily in the same job or at the same pay. Other efforts may be more involved:
We can also do more to raise the employment rate of older women. It is often tough for women to continue working while raising a family, even if the husband carries his share of the household responsibilities. We can help by adopting more flexible work arrange¬ments, developing family-friendly workplace policies, and providing accessible and affordable childcare. We should also encourage older women to return to the workforce, through targeted outreach and retraining.
Source: Prime Minister's Office Speech (January 8, 2009)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Australia: Economic Conditions Forcing Older Workers to Defer Retirement

According to news reports, research conducted by Rice Warner indicates that deteriorating financial conditions will force 40,000 retirees in Australia to defer retirement and move into part-time work and others who retired since 2007 will return to the workforce.

Writing in The Australian, Adele Ferguson also says that "seniors groups believe the deterioration in retirement savings over the past year will force the Rudd Government to scale back the way it calculates earnings on retirees' investments."

Sources: Smart Company "40,000 retirees to shelve retirement plans – here’s how you can benefit" (January 5, 2009); The Australian "40,000 retirees forced to keep working because of economic downturn" (January 3, 2009)