Sunday, February 26, 2012

Germany: Government Finds that Encouraging Older Workers to Stay Increases Business Productivity

Following its decision to raise the national retirement age to 67, the German government has released a report that having employees between the ages of 45 and 67 increases a business's productivity. In the first of semi-annual progress reports, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has released "Fortschrittsreport „Altersgerechte Arbeitswelt“ Ausgabe 1: Entwicklung des Arbeitsmarkts für Ältere" in which it finds, among other things:
  • employment rate of 60 to 64 year olds continues to rise, up to 40.8% in 2010 (up from 38.4% in 2009;
  • the employment rate among 55-to 64-year-olds has increased since 2000 more in Germany than in most other EU countries, and among 60- to 64-year-olds, the increase in Germany was the strongest in the EU;
  • if age-appropriate jobs are available, the productivity of employees between 45 and 50 years increases by as much as two percent.
According to Ursula von der Leyen (Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs):
Stimmt der Altersmix, dann steigt nach neuen wissenschaftlichen Studien quer über alle Branchen die Produktivität. Damit ist das Vorurteil widerlegt, dass Jüngere per se leistungsfähiger sind. Das Signal an die Unternehmen ist klar: Wer erfahrene Leistungsträger beschäftigt und Ältere einstellt, kann davon profitieren. Aber auch Flexibilität mit Blick auf die Lebensarbeitszeit wird für Betriebe und Mitarbeiterschaft immer wichtiger.
The Ministry also provides other web pages regarding raising the retirement age to 67.Source: Press Release (February 21, 2012)

Ireland and Northern Ireland: Gender Inequality on Access to Pensions for Older Women Workers

Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) has published a report finding that less than one in three female pensioners in the Republic of Ireland receive the maximum contributory pension and women in Northern Ireland receive on average just 68% of male pension. According to "Older Women Workers’ Access to Pensions: Vulnerabilities, Perspectives and Strategies," although the pensions systems in both Ireland and the United Kingdom has begun to address barriers to equal access by gender, women continue to experience differential access to pensions, and particularly occupational and private pensions.

The most important factor in explaining the lower pensions of older women is that they are unlikely to have been employed steadily (or at all) throughout their adult lives. According to a CARDI research brief based on the report and other relevant data, "in RoI showed that in 1983 less than a quarter of women aged 50-54 were in paid work, though this was true of 80% of men of the same age. By 2002 the number of women aged 50-54 in the labour market had doubled to 50.6%." While European data show the increase in labor force participation by older women, "it shows the very low base in 1994, with less than one fifth of older women in employment in seven countries, including RoI."

Nata Duvvury, co-Director of the Global Women’s Studies Programme at NUI Galway, one of the lead investigators of the report commented:
Women are often the holders of low pay and part-time jobs which will dramatically affect their ability to build pensions. With the economic crisis, this particular group in society is being put under even more financial pressure and the long-term result looks set to be financial insecurity in older age.
Source: Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland News Release (February 23, 2012)

Friday, February 24, 2012

United Kingdom: TUC Reports Surge in Unpaid Overtime by Older Workers

An analysis published by the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) finds that the proportion of employees in their late 50s and early 60s working unpaid overtime has increased sharply in the last decade--despite a fall in unpaid hours for the rest of the workforce. Published to coincide with "Work Your Proper Hours Day," the report states that a quarter of a million more workers in their late 50s and early 60s did unpaid overtime in 2011 than in 2001. The TUC attributes some of this to fears about a loss of income after retirement leading more people to work past their traditional retirement age.

While age may be a factor, workers who have been in the same post for at least ten years are twice as likely to work unpaid overtime (25%) as those who have been working for less than a year (12.5%).

Source: Trades Union Congress Media Release (February 24, 2012)

Eurobarometer Issued Measuring Active Aging, Attitudes to Older Workers

As part of the European Year of Active Aging, a Eurobarometer survey examined active ageing in the EU, including attitudes to the workplace, career end and pensions. According to the "Eurobarometer survey on active ageing," barriers to older workers functioning in the labor market included a lack of training, a lack of flexibility to reduce working hours, and negative perceptions on the part of employers. In addition, the overall view was that the retirement age should be equal for men and women, but that individuals should be allowed to work beyond retirement age if they wished.

Specifically, with respect to barriers, a lack of opportunities to allow older workers to reduce their working hours gradually was viewed as "very important" by 25% of respondents and "important" by 47%), the exclusion of older workers from training in the workplace was viewed as :very important" by 26% and "important" by 45%, and older workers not being viewed positively by employers was viewed as "very important" by 27% and "important" by 43%.

Looking at the advantages of older workers (those 55 and older), survey respondents perceived them to be more experienced (87% syaing that this was "much" or "somewhat" more likely) and more reliable than their younger counterparts (67% saying that this was "much" or "somewhat" more likely).

Source: Eurofound "New Eurobarometer survey examines active ageing" (February 23, 2012)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canada: Older Workers Dominating Gains in Labor Market

According to "Older Workers Stampede Into The Labour Market," a special report published by TD Economics, older workers have dominated the gains in the Canadian labor market in recent years. Among other things, the report finds that Canadians aged 60 years and over have accounted for about one-third of all net job gains since the economic recovery began in July 2009, even though they only account for 8% of the total labor force. Some of these gains can be attributable to the fact that many older Canadians are delaying retirement and staying in the workforce longer.
[T]his is not simply a story of those in the 60-65 age range, but also of those older than 70. Employment for these individuals has surged by 55,000 positions since then (a 37% gain). Even more surprising is that almost 100,000 net jobs were added in the 60+ age group at the depth of the recession. By comparison, their younger counterparts (ages 59 and under) recorded well over 500,000 net losses over the same period.
TD Economics also suggests that some of the growing preference for older workers reflects their tendency to favor less rigid work arrangements, since it is estimated that upwards of one-third of all work arrangements are now "non-standard"--including part-time and temporary work, and self-employment.

Source: TD Economics Special Report (February 23, 2012)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

United Kingdom: Survey Suggests Scottish Employers Not Ready for Older Workforce

Mining the details of its second survey from the "JLT 250 Club" on defined contribution (DC) pension schemes in the workplace, JLT Benefit Solutions finds that Scottish employers may not have adapted yet to a future without retirement. Even though the United Kingdom has abolished mandatory retirement, 50% of Scottish employers who participated in the survey do not yet know how they will adapt to an older employee workforce, and only one-third are reviewing or planning to review their reward strategy.

According to Malcolm Paul, Chairman of JLT Benefit Solutions in Scotland:
In particular, from the perspective of reward strategy, Scottish employers need to give consideration to the employee benefits that they will provide to their workers who continue in service after normal pension age. Organisations need a policy on the inevitable increase in demand for flexible retirement and the future role of pensions and other benefits in succession planning.
Source: JLT Benefit Solutions Limited News Release (February 22, 2012)

Australia: Targeting Older Workers to Help Aged Care Industry

According to an article in Aged Care INsite, internal research conducted by Bupa Care Services suggests that aged care providers should be targeting older workers in their communities in order to address their staff shortages. As reported by Darragh O Keeffe, "[w]hen Bupa analysed its internal data on staff turnover, length of service, sickness, workers compensation and take up of company reward programs, it was its older workers who stood out."
Staff members aged 60 and over comprise 10 per cent of Bupa’s workforce, but they represent just 3 per cent of the total claims for worker’s compensation. They take less sick leave than other age groups and they are over-represented when it comes to the company’s staff recognition program.
Bupa also found that We found the average length of service for a 60- to 69-year-olds was over nine years, compared to 3.7 years for a 40- to 49-year-olds.

Sources: "Grey army to the rescue" Aged Care INsite (February-March 2012); Bupa Aged Care Media Release (February 6, 2012)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Survey: Retirement May Be Becoming Thing of the Past

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder and PrimeCB.com, 57% of workers age 60 and over said they would look for a new job after retiring from their current company. The survey, which included more than 800 U.S. workers age 60 and older and more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals, also found that 11% said they don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire.

From the employer side of the job market, CareerBuilder reports that 43% of employers plan to hire workers age 50 plus this year, while 41% said they hired workers age 50 plus in 2011. Overall, 75% of the employers surveyed would consider an application from an overqualified worker who is 50 plus, with 59% of them saying mature candidates bring a wealth of knowledge to an organization and can mentor others.
“Whether mature workers are motivated by financial concerns or simply enjoy going to work every day, we’re seeing more people move away from the traditional definition of retirement and seek ‘rehirement,’” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “At the same time, employers are seeing the value these mature workers can bring to an organization, from their intellectual capital to their mentoring and training capabilities. In a highly competitive job market, mature workers can use these skills to their advantage.”
Source: CareerBuilder Press Release (February 16, 2012)

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Zealand: Increased Labor Participation among 65 Plus Workers Displacing Younger Workers

In its 2012 annual report, the Salvation Army of New Zealand states, among other things, that older people staying in the workforce are displacing many teenagers from jobs. According to "The Growing Divide," the number of 15- to 19-year-olds in paid work dropped by 42,600 in the last five years, while the numbers still working beyond 65 jumped by 40,200.

In addition to just raw numbers, the labor force participation rate of people aged over 65 rose from from 14.1% in December 2006, to a record 19.5% in December 2011. At the same time, the participation rate of workers aged 15 to 19 has dropped from 58% to just under 48%.

Sources: Salvation ArmyNews Release (February 2012); Otago Daily Times "More older people staying in workforce" (February 19, 2012)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

EBRI Report on Labor Participation Rates of Older Workers following Economic Downturn

The percentage of Americans 55 or older in the work force remains at its recent highs in 2011, according to a new report by EBRI. However,the article on "Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Age 55 and Older, 2011: After the Economic Downturn" in the February 2012 issue of EBRI Notes, finds that this trend is almost exclusively due to the increase of women in the work force and that the male workforce participation rate is flat to declining.

EBRI concludes that the recent economic downturn did not alter the trend of older workers increasingly being in the labor force. Instead, it finds that this appears to remain the trend, as "more opportunities for older workers exist and there is a greater necessity for them to remain in the labor force to accumulate sufficient or adequate resources for retirement."

Source: EBRI Press Release (February 26, 2012)

United Kingdom: Average Retirement Age Rising

The United Kingdom Office for National Statistics has issued a new Pension Trends report showing that the average age at which people leave the labor market--a proxy for average age of retirement--rose from 63.8 years to 64.6 years for men and from 61.2 years to 62.3 years for women between 2004 and 2010.

The report also found that a larger proportion of men than of women take early retirement: 8.2% of women in the 55 to State Pension Age group were classified as retired in April-June 2011, compared with 20.4% of men aged 60 to State Pension Age. In addition, while the majority of people below State Pension Age who are in employment do full-time work, the transition to retirement involves a move to part-time employment: In April-June 2011, 7.3% of men of State Pension Age and over worked part time, while 4.6% worked full time; 8.9% of women of State Pension Age and over worked part time, while 3.6% worked full time.

Sources: Office for National Statistics Pension Trends: Chapter 4 "The labour market and retirement" (February 16, 2012); TAEN News Release (February 16, 2012)

Netherlands: Employer Support for Older Workers, but Not for Those Over 65

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) has issued a report showing how personnel policy has changed in the Netherlands over the last ten years, describing, among other things, the trend in the inward and outward movements of staff in various sectors, mapping out developments in remuneration, training and employees' work-life balance, and devoting particular attention to the policy on older workers.

One focus of the study, "Demand for Labour [Vraag naar arbeid] 2011," was to look at the extent to which employers have taken up government recommendations and see if employers are taking a more positive view of older workers if the costs of employing this group are reduced. The results were mixed, with employers looking more favorably on workers over 60, but not workers over 65.

With respect to the first group, between 2001 and 2009, the number of employers who consider it good for their organization that employees should continue to work beyond the age of 60 rose from 41% to 55%, employees themselves have become more positive on working beyond the age of 60. "More than half the employers in virtually all sectors now regard it as desirable that employees should continue working beyond age 60. The only exception is the education sector, where only 43% of employers were in favour of this in 2009."

However, "support for continuing to work beyond the age of 65 years is low among both employers and employees; in 2009, only 15% of employers considered staff working beyond the current retirement age to be good for their organisation, while sup- port among employees was just 14%." However, the report took a positive spin even on this:
This suggests that there is still a long way to go in generating sufficient support to raise the retirement age. This does not appear to be an impossible task: after all, support for working beyond the age of 60 has also increased over the last decade. It may be that the norms as to when an employee is considered ‹too old› will to some extent shift of their own accord as the state retirement age rises and the labour force ages.
Sources: SCP Press Release (Feburary 14, 2012); DutchNews.nl "Employers do not want older workers" (February 14, 2012)

Hospitality Industry: Guide Issued for UK Employers To Retain and Recruit Older Workers

The Institute of Hospitality has issued an official knowledge pack--available to both non-members and members--designed for hospitality sector stakeholders to understand and explain the benefits of older (50+) worker recruitment and retention. Issued as part of the Institute's ongoing campaign to raise awareness of age diversity in the workplace, "The case for recruiting and retaining older workers: a business imperative for the Hospitality sector" has been produced by Capita Consulting on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, and presents the business rationale for continuing to promote and support ongoing activity on the older worker agenda.

Among other things, the guide:
  • Highlights forthcoming demographic changes and the impact that these will have on both customers and employment patterns in the hospitality sector.
  • Identifies barriers to older worker participation in the hospitality industry.
  • Demonstrates how an older workforce can help address sector challenges (e.g. around skills shortages and poor customer service) via research, case studies and employer stories.
  • Provides links to generic and sector specific good practice management guides/articles and information that can be adapted and disseminated to hospitality sector employers.
Source: Institute of Hospitality News Release (January 2012)

United Kingdom: Long-Term Unemployment Increasing among Over-50's

According to press reports, almost half of unemployed people aged 50 or over have been out of work for a year or more in the United Kingdom. Although women and young people appear to be bearing the brunt of job cuts over the past year, the trend in long-term unemployment among the older workers is a "disturbing" sign that older jobseekers are being consigned to the unemployment scrapheap, experts said.

Specfically, of the 426,000 unemployed older workers, 189,000 have been without jobs for a year or more, and 111,000 for at least two years.
Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: 'This disturbing jump in the number of long-term unemployed older workers is a clear signal that the Government needs to take more action to help this age group, particularly at a time when it has raised the state pension age.'
Sources: Daily Telegraph "Older workers 'on jobs scrapheap' as crisis deepens" (February 15, 2012); AgeUK "Over-50s on 'unemployment scrapheap'" (February 16, 2012)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Work Employment & Society" Publishes Series of Articles Exploring Workforce Aging

In its February 2012 issue of Work Employment & Society, the British Sociological Association has published three articles based on different research into workforce aging:

"Ageing, skills and participation in work-related training in Britain: assessing the position of older workers," by Jesus Canduela, Matthew Dutton, Steve Johnson, Colin Lindsay, Ronald W McQuaid, and Robert Raeside.
Policy makers have introduced a number of measures to encourage older workers to stay in the labour market, with improving access to training a particular priority. Policy action appeared justified by evidence that older workers are less likely to participate in training, and more likely to have never been offered training by employers – a key finding of Taylor and Urwin’s (2001) review of Labour Force Survey (LFS) data from 1997. This article models LFS data from 2007 to assess whether age remained a predictor of inequalities in training. It finds that men over 50 remained among those least likely to have been offered training by employers. There were other significant inequalities in participation, suggesting a polarization in access to jobs that offer opportunities for training and progression. The article concludes that policies promoting ‘active ageing’ need to challenge negative employer attitudes and acknowledge fundamental inequalities in access to skills.
"Gender, age and ageism: experiences of women managers in Finland and Scotland" by Marjut Jyrkinen and Linda McKie.
This article explores the intersectionality of gender and age in work and careers of women managers. Interviews were conducted with women senior managers in two EU countries, namely Finland and Scotland. These countries have demographic and economic similarities, but there are differences in welfare regimes, economies and employment policies. Using the approach of biographical matching the article compares how women managers in these countries encounter gendered ageism in the different stages of their careers. Data illustrate the myriad ways in which women experience ageism and lookism. The conclusion reflects upon these processes of gendering management which persist across these two labour markets
"Working past 65 in the UK and the USA: segregation into ‘Lopaq’ occupations?" by David Lain.
A prominent business case for employing older people in the 2000s suggests diverse employment opportunities existed for Britons over 65, despite their limited employment rights. However, it is hypothesized that employees over 65 were disproportionately segregated into less desired ‘Lopaq’ occupations: these were low paid, required few qualifications and were often part-time. The UK is contrasted with the USA, a country with long-established age discrimination legislation; the Labour Force Survey and Current Population Survey are analysed. A greater UK concentration in Lopaq occupations suggests employers, working in a context of limited employee rights, selectively retained and recruited people in their 60s to these jobs. An alternative explanation, that Lopaq employment levels reflected the characteristics of those choosing to work, is unsupported by logistic regression analysis. US evidence suggests that the 2011 default retirement age abolition will weaken UK Lopaq occupational segregation after 65 more than voluntaristic commitments to ‘age-diversity’.
Source: Work Employment & Society Table of Contents (February 2012)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Research: Increased in Earned Income Attributable to Increased Labor Participation by Older Workers

A report from the Division of Economic Research, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration, shows that higher labor force participation rates for people aged 62–79 are associated with a dramatic increase in the share of their total money income attributable to earnings. According to "The Increasing Labor Force Participation of Older Workers and its Effect on the Income of the Aged", by Michael V. Leonesio, Benjamin Bridges, Robert Gesumaria, and Linda Del Bene, for persons aged 65–69, the earnings share increased from 28% in 1980 to 42% percent in 2009.

They also found that while, two decades ago, Social Security benefits and earnings were roughly equal shares of total money income (about 30%), the earnings share is now more than 12 percentage points larger. The marked increase in the importance of earnings as an income source is also evident throughout the 62–79 age range among Social Security beneficiaries.

In reviewing the many factors that have likely contributed to the increase in late-life earnings, the authors note, among other things, legislative changes such as bans on age discrimination, the low private savings rates in the United States, increasing cost of health care, a healthier older population, and changes in social security rules for earned income.

Source: U.S. Social Security Administration Social Security Bulletin Vol. 72, No. 1 (February 2012)

Nordic Labour Journal Publishes Issue Focused on "Age is no Barrier"

The Nordic Labour Journal has published an in focus issue on "Age is No Barrier." Focused on demystifying old age and presenting points of view and debates emerging from changing demographics, articles in the Journal include:Source: Nordic Labour Forum (Feburary 9, 2012)

Northern Europe: Forum Addresses Encouraging Older Workers To Stay in Workforce

At the Northern Europe Forum, on 8-9 February 2012, the leaders of the Nordic and Baltic countries and the United Kingdom met to discuss common social challenges, focusing on two important issues that are vital to achieving long-term sustainable growth: (1) How do we get more women into top positions and more women entrepreneurs? and (2) How do we get senior citizens to stay longer in the labour force? In addition, a conference on "Beyond 65: new life chances in the labour market" was organized by the Government Commission on the Future of Sweden to run alongside the Northern Future Forum.

On the latter issue, "[f]lexibility, a voluntary basis and respect for the skills and experience of senior people were among the most frequent words heard in the discussion on how the nine prime ministers could increase the proportion of senior people in the workforce. The delegates at the Northern Future Forum seemed to agree that the issue is complex and requires a change of attitude across the whole of society." A summary of the day's discussions as well as a webcast on the topic are available.

In preparation for the forum a paper--"Nine countries’ perspectives on women entrepreneurs and leaders and senior citizens in the labour force"--was published with a country-by-country description of the initiatives that have been taken to get older persons to stay in the work force. In addition, documents were prepared of statistics of the number of seniors in the workforce.

At the Commission on the Future session, the message from Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was that more people must be encouraged to work into older age and they must be prepared to retrain or change professions or careers during our working lives.

Sources: Nordic Labour Journal "Older people to be encouraged to work for longer" (February 9, 2012); Government of Sweden Northern Future Forum

Singapore: Reactions to Proposals Raising Age Before CPF Rates Are Cut

After Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that employers' contribution rates to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for older workers have to go up gradually, concerns have been expressed as to what the effect will be on older workers. Currently, CPF rates are cut when workers reach 50 years old, and cut further when they turn 65.

Unions have welcomed the move, recommending that the policy would be revised so that the drop from 16% to 12% takes place at age 55, 12% to 9% at age 60, etc., stressing that businesses can tackle the extra costs with some smart planning. However, others are worried that it will depress employment for older workers, noting that a larger proportion of older workers kept their jobs during the recession because their CPF was lower and so they were cheaper to retain.
Employers also said that raising the CPF contribution rates will disadvantage older workers, as "it does not help to price an older worker beyond what the employer can afford", reckoned Dr Randolph Tan, SIM University's business programme head.
Sources: Reuters "Singapore to raise pension contributions for older workers" (February 17, 2012); Channel News Asia "Employers' contributions to older workers' CPF to be raised: PM Lee" (Feburary 8, 2011); AsisOne "Employers concerned over higher CPF contribution rates" (February 10, 2012); The Business Times "Start cutting CPF rates only at age 55, say unions" (February 11, 2012)

Webcast: AARP Foundation Panels on Positioning Older Workers for Hourly Wage Jobs

On February 2, 2012 AARP Foundation hosted: "A Critical Conversation: Positioning Older Workers for Hourly Wage Jobs in Demand." The first video segment features research presentations on employer needs, including the following topics and presenters:
  • Employer Research on Finding Qualified Candidates - Rebecca Perron, PhD, AARP Research and Strategic Analysis
  • Will Workers Have the Education Needed for Future Jobs? - Hans Johnson, PhD, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Innovative Workforce Strategies for Older Adults - Phyllis Snyder, CAEL (Council of Adult and Experiential Learning)

In the second video segment, Jim Torrens of Insight Center for Community Economic Development moderates a panel discussion between Employment Sector and Workforce Services Sector professionals, including:

  • Steve Wing, Corporate Voices for Working Families
  • Karen Key, National Human Service Assembly
  • Jerold Ramos, AlliedBarton Security Services
  • Joe Carbone, The WorkPlace, Bridgeport, CT
  • Deb Briceland-Betts, AARP Foundation SCSEP
  • Simon Lopez, National Council of La Raza, Workforce Services
Source: AARP Foundation YouTube (February 2, 2012)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Spain: Government Changes to Labor Policies Make it Cheaper to Discharge Older Workers

According to press reports, the Spanish government is taking steps towards ending a two-tier labor market that favors an older generation of workers with robust benefits who are very expensive to let go, but gives few rights to generally younger workers on temporary contracts. Specifically, the government plan would abolish contracts allowing severance packages of 45 days' pay for every year worked to employees deemed to have been unfairly dismissed, and instead would provide that employers firing staff will have to offer just 33 days' pay per year, or 20 days if the business is facing losses over a sustained period. In addition, it would cap severance pay at the equivalent of two years' wages, almost halving the limit from a previous 3 1/2 years.

Source: Reuters "Spain cuts firing costs in new labor reform" (February 10, 2012)

Another report says that the Spanish government is studying measures to allow older workers to remain employed and get a pension at the same time. According to the Minister for Employment and Social Security, Fatima Bañez, the plan is to reduce the number of early retirements to exceptional cases.

Source: EuroWeekly "Spain Plans To Allow Working While Receiving Pension" (February 14, 2012)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Japan: Increasingly Shrinking and Aging Population into 2060

According to new research from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan's population will shrink by one-third by 2060, the number of people 65 or older will nearly double, and the Japanese workforce of people ages 15 to 65 will shrink to about half of the total population. The full report--"Japan's future estimated population (estimated January 2012)"--is only available in Japanese.

According to Reuters, "'The trend of the ageing society will continue and it is hard to expect the birth rate to rise significantly,' Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference." The report is triggering new debates in Japan on both how to fund benefits for the aging population and how to boost fertility rates.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to double a 5 percent sales tax in two stages by October 2015 to help fund bulging social security costs, which are rising by 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) a year and aggravating a public debt already twice the size of Japan's $5 trillion (3.18 trillion pound) economy.

But the biggest opposition party, although agreeing on the need for a tax increase, is threatening to block legislation in parliament's upper house. The opposition argues that the ruling Democrats' plan to revamp public pensions would require a higher levy than planned.
Sources: Press TV"Japan faces shrinking population by one-third by 2060" (February 6, 2012); Seattle Times "Japan to see population shrink by one-third in next 5 decades" (February 1, 2012); Reuters "Japan population seen falling 30 percent by 2060"

Vision Benefits Underutilized by Older Workers

The annual Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey conducted by Transitions Optical, Inc. finds that today’s aging U.S. workforce isn’t fully taking advantage of vision benefits provided by companies, and they are "missing out on a critical preventive care opportunity and leaving themselves at higher risk for age-related vision problems, eye diseases and chronic conditions that impact eye health and compromise productivity." Specifically, the survey found that baby boomers (ages 45-64) are only slightly more likely than younger employees to enroll in their vision benefit (79% vs 75%), and the 34% of baby boomers and 23% of those ages 65+ who enroll do not utilize their benefit to receive a comprehensive eye exam.

According to the survey, employees’ actual experiences with many vision-related issues do increase with age, but even older employees had limited awareness of these changes. Thus, for example, half of baby boomers were unaware that they may have more trouble seeing far away or seeing well in dim lighting as they grow older. Similarly, three in 10 were unaware of the increased risk for eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Employers were also cited for not taking appropriate steps to make sure employees understand their vision benefit. While only 18% percent of employees reported that their employers do not communicate to them about their vision benefit, nearly 60% percent of employers provide only basic vision plan information during the open enrollment period and only 13% of employees said their employers also include information on the importance of eye health.

Source: Transitions Optical, Inc. Press Release (January 31, 2012)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Report: U.S. Skills Shortage coming from Aging Workforce and Lack of Corporate Development

A report issued by Taleo Corporation on the 2011 business climate and related talent management trends for 2012 finds that talent decisions are taking on increased importance as companies fail to effectively manage the flow of critical talent are risking their growth and in some cases even their survival. Among other things, "U.S. Talent Treands for 2012" finds that an aging population and a lack of investment in training and development will result in continuing skills shortages.
Taleo anticipates increased friction between businesses' global ambitions for expansion and varying quality and quantity of local labor. In the US, labor participation rates among younger workers continue to fall while rates among older workers rise. In the short-term, this skews the balance of the workforce toward more experienced, more expert workers. In the mid to long-term, this lack of investment and hiring of younger workers is going to exacerbate talent shortages related to boomer retirements. Smart companies are looking to rebalance their mix of new hires to focus more on emerging and potential talent.
Source: Taleo Corp. Press Release (January 30, 2012)

World Economic Forum on Global Aging, Releasing Social Capital

In advance of the winter meeting in Davos, the World Economic Forum released a book on global aging, addressing many issues, including how individuals find fulfillment, at what age they retire, and their quality of life once they do retire; how governments devise social contracts to provide financial security; how the older and younger generations interact as they divide up the economic pie; how businesses staff their jobs to compensate in many countries for shrinking workforces; and how health systems respond to the altered needs of those living longer.

With respect to the aging workforce itself, Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? has essays on:
  • "Population Ageing: Macro Challenges and Policy Responses" by David E. Bloom, Axel Börsch-Supan, Patrick McGee and Atsushi Seike, who, among other things, suggest that "To adapt and possibly benefit from an increasingly aged world, businesses must shift organizational structures and practices in a number of areas.";
  • "Social Capital, Lifelong Learning and Social Innovation" by Simon Biggs, Laura Carstensen and Paul Hogan, who conclude that "[i]f societies are to adapt, steps will need to be taken to release the social capital that is locked up in their older citizens. This potential would include the application of accrued social and emotional intelligence, an understanding of the ways things interact with each other and an ability to place single events in their wider perspective.";
  • "Organizational Adaptation and Human Resource Needs for an Ageing Population" by Atsushi Seike, Simon Biggs and Leisa Sargent, who suggest that "Organizational adaptation will be a key element in achieving the human resource needs for a world with fewer younger workers and greater numbers of older workers. Where older people continue working, it can create a virtuous circle for public policy, whereby individuals continue to pay taxes while not drawing down on benefits systems."; and
  • "Ageing Workforces and Competitiveness: A European Perspective" by Giles Archibald and Raymond Brood, who recommend focusing on flexible work, eldercare, flexible retirement solutions, training and working conditions.
Source: Fox News"Economies thrive on older staff, new social policy book claims" (January 31, 2012)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Research: Investigation of Effect of Providing Yoga and Other Vitality Intervention on Older Workers

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has evaluated the effectiveness of a worksite vitality intervention on vigorous physical activity (VPA), fruit intake, aerobic capacity, mental health and need for recovery after work among older hospital workers (ie, 45 years and older). According to the Dutch researchers (Jorien E Strijk, Karin I Proper, Allard J van der Beek, and Willem van Mechelen) who carried out the research at two hospitals, implementation of worksite yoga and workout facilities and minimal fruit interventions should be considered by employers to promote transitions into healthier lifestyles and thereby health.

The research grew out of the premise that longer life expectancies and lower birth rates are leading to an aging society and subsequently a shrinkage of the workforce, so that aging workers are required in the near future. However, efforts just to raise retirement ages will not overcome the physical effects of aging. Thus, in order to prolong the working life of older workers and increase their employability, it is important to promote and maintain good health.
This study showed that intervention group workers significantly increased their weekly sports activities and fruit intake when compared to control group workers. Also, the intervention favourably affected the NFR after a day of work. No effects were observed for VPA, aerobic capacity and mental health.
The authors had earlier published an article on "A process evaluation of a worksite vitality intervention among ageing hospital workers" in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health "A worksite vitality intervention to improve older workers' lifestyle and vitality-related outcomes: results of a randomised controlled trial." (January 20, 2012)