Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Expert Knowledge May Offset the Impact of Old Age in Some Occupations

According to a study published in the February 27, 2007, issue of Neurology®, older pilots performed better over time than younger pilots on flight simulator tests. The results of a three-year longitudinal study by Joy L. Taylor, PhD, Quinn Kennedy, PhD, Art Noda, MS and Jerome A. Yesavage, MD were published in "Pilot age and expertise predict flight simulator performance". Among other things, the authors found that "while older pilots initially performed worse than younger pilots, older pilots showed less of a decline in overall flight summary scores than younger pilots, and over time their traffic avoidance performances improved more than that of younger pilots."
“These findings show the advantageous effect of prior experience and specialized expertise on older adults’ skilled cognitive performances,” said study author Joy L. Taylor, PhD, with the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center in Palo Alto, California. “Our discovery has broader implications beyond aviation to the general issue of aging in the workplace and the objective assessment of competency in older workers.”
In the same issue, Joseph I. Sirven and Daniel G. Morrow have an editorial--"Fly the graying skies: A question of competency vs age" suggesting that the study had implications "well beyond aviation," noting the rapid aging of the population means increasing numbers of older workers in critical occupations. As quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle:
"It is time to reconsider fixed age limits for the workplace and consider transitioning to competency-based evaluations of performance," said the editorial authors, Dr. Joseph L. Sirven of the Mayo Clinic and Daniel G. Morrow of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. "Better simulation techniques need to be developed not only in aviation, but also in medicine and other careers where public safety is at risk.
Source: American Academy of Neurology Press Release (February 26, 2007)

Other Sources: The San Francisco Chronicle "Experience tops youth in study on aging pilots" (February 27, 2007); "Pilot Study Questions Wisdom of Mandatory Retirement" (February 28, 2007)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Singapore: Older Men Making Greater Gains than Older Women

Singapore has set a record high proportion of the older population in the labour force and in employment. Key findings of an occasional paper on "A Statistical Profile of Older Workers" from the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department show that both the participation and employment rates of older males in Singapore compare favourably to countries in the region and beyond and that while older females have also made significant gains, their participation and employment rates are still relatively lower than in many developed countries.

Specifically, the participation rate among resident males aged 60 to 64 rose from 49% in 1996 to 63% in 2006, while among females in the same age group, the rate rose from 15% to 26%. For men, that is significantly higher than participation rates in Hong Kong (45%), Taiwan (47%), Germany (41%), Netherlands (31%), France (19%), the United Kingdom (56%) and the United States (59%).

Among other findings, older workers were more likely to be self-employed (26%) than the younger cohort (12%), older workers have a lower incidence of switching jobs, and full-time older workers tend to work longer hours compared to those younger.

Source: Ministry of Manpower Press Release (February 22, 2007)

United States: Federal Reserve Bank Study of Aging Demographics Suggests Retaining Older Workers Can Help Reduce Decline in Consumption Rates

In a paper discussing the consequences of population aging from a macroeconomic perspective and considering alternative paths the U.S. economy could follow in response to population aging, three Federal Reserve Bank economists conclude that, barring a significant increase in labor force participation, population aging will lead to a reduction in per capita consumption relative to a baseline in which the demographic composition of the population does not change.

Among other things, Louise Sheiner, Daniel Sichel, and Lawrence Slifman suggested that an alternative to reducing consumption is to raise output by increasing labor force participation and presented the results of simulations with higher labor force participation by the elderly. Accordingly, one of the main macroeconomic policy questions for the nation is "How much can we (and should we) raise labor force participation?"
In all likelihood, a rise in participation rates for workers aged 55 and over would be necessary. An increase of this magnitude would probably require major adjustments to both business and government policies. For example, businesses could re-structure their operations to include more opportunities for part-time or flexible work schedules, which are often appealing to older workers, or the government could make adjustments to such things as the age at which workers are first entitled to receive Social Security benefits (the early retirement age) and the age at which they are eligible to receive Medicare as well.
Source: The Federal Reserve Bank Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-1: "A Primer on the Macroeconomic Implications of Population Aging" (January 16, 2007)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

European Court Upholds Collectively-Bargained Mandatory Retirement Age

Jan Mazak, an Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice, has rendered an opinion that European law allows individual countries to pass legislation permitting mandatory retirement ages. Thus, a provision in the Spain's discrimination laws that effectively allows employers to force staff to retire at 65 is compatible with European law.

The dispute was brought by Félix Palacios de la Villa against Cortefiel Servicios SA, in which Mr Palacios claims that his dismissal on the ground that he had attained the compulsory retirement age laid down in a collective agreement was unlawful. However, the Advocae-General ruled that the European principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age does not preclude a national law pursuant to which compulsory retirement clauses contained in collective agreements are lawful, where such clauses provide as sole requirements that workers must have reached normal retirement age and must have fulfilled the conditions set out in the social security legislation of the Member State concerned for entitlement to draw a retirement pension under the relevant contribution regime.

This decision particulary attracted attention in the United Kingdom.
Although [the] case concerns collective employment agreements, which are much less common in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, lawyers said that the legal opinion also applies to individual contracts and so the case is directly relevant to British workers.

James Baker, an employment lawyer at Macfarlanes, said: “This opinion will disappoint thousands of workers in the UK who are pinning their hopes on a legal challenge to the mandatory retirement age.
Source: European Court of Justice Opinion of Advocate General C-411/05 Palacios de la Villa (February 15, 2007)

Other References: The Times of London "Blow for workers as European court says mandatory retirement is lawful" (February 15, 2007)

Friday, February 16, 2007

U.S. Senate Schedules Hearing, Webcast on Aging Workforce

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on February 28, 2007 on "The Aging Workforce: What Does it Mean for Businesses and the Economy?" Chairman Herb Kohl chaired the meeting held at 10:30 a.m. in Dirksen 628. A webcast is available from the Committee's website.

The Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College had announced that Dr. Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes was invited to testify at the hearing on the effect of the aging workforce on businesses, best practices that promote workplace flexibility, and the extent that employers are prepared for the aging workforce.

Sources: Senate Special Committee on Aging Home Page; Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College Home Page

Saturday, February 10, 2007

United Nations: Older Workers Part of Agenda for Commission for Social Development

On February 7, the United Nations Commission for Social Development opened its 45th session on promoting full employment and decent work for all. Among other things, the Commission will review the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, five years after it was adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, said that strong economic growth in 2006 had not led to substantial reductions in unemployment rates and included older workers among those facing increasing insecurity in the workplace and shrinking opportunities for decent work. Han Schölvinck, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that a report on the nearly five years since the Second World Assembly on Ageing showed that there are tremendous challenges facing the world’s rapidly ageing populations and observed that the active participation of older persons in society was impossible without protecting their rights and fighting against age-based discrimination and making concerted efforts to empower them.

Among the documents prepared for the Conference, the Report of the Secretary-General on Promoting Full Employment and Decent Work for All found:
104. The number of older persons remaining employed varies considerably around the world. Countries with high per capita incomes tend to have lower labour force participation rates among older persons. Older persons in less developed regions continue to participate, to a great extent, in the labour force, owing largely to the limited coverage of social security schemes and the relatively low guaranteed incomes.

105. Unfortunately, older persons face discrimination in employment. Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other income-generating opportunities as well as to determine when and at what pace to withdraw from the labour force. Continuing educational opportunities and opportunities to update skills could help to empower older persons to decide for themselves when to leave the labour force. In order to fully empower older persons to leave the labour force when they want to, pensions and health care should be available to them so that they are not forced to work for survival.
Source: U.N. Economic and Social Council Press Release (February 7, 2007)

Finland: Retirement Age Rising

According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat, studies are showing that since the 2005 pension reform, which allowed a person aged under 68 to stay at work and be covered by pension insurance, the retirement age of Finns has been rising. "Fewer people aged 63 to 65 take retirement than previously, and more and more older citizens stay at work, thanks in part to the good employment situation."

The Finnish Centre for Pensions found that in 2006, the expected effective retirement age rose by almost six months for both 25-year-old and 50-year-old employees alike. In addition, the Labour Force Surveys of Statistics Finland indicate a similar trend, with the employment rate of persons aged 60 to 64 having risen by almost 10 percentage points since 2004.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat "Fewer Finns aged 63 to 65 opting for retirement" (February 9, 2007)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Korea: Government To Raise Retirement Age

According to a report in the Korean Herald, the government plans to raise workers' retirement age as one prong of a strategy to fend off anticipated labor shortages. Another prong is to reduce the length of compulsory military service.

With respect to retirement, the government will push measures to extend the retirement age by five years--raising the age for receiving public pension payments by five years to 65 by 2033; currently, Koreans on average retire at 56.8 years of age. In addition, the government will provide support for employers to allow their workers to retire later and also remove some discriminatory rules against senior workers.

Source: The Korea Herald "Seoul to raise retirement age" (February 6, 2007)

Commentary: Early Retirement Trend Reversing in Australia

Ross Gittins, commenting in the Sydney Morning Herald on the sharp increase in the number of older workers staying in employment, observes that the rise has been caused by men staying in full-time jobs--that is, it represents "men staying in employment and not retiring, rather than men who'd formerly retired being enticed back into the workforce." Women is a different story, as participation by women aged 55 to 64 has been constantly rising as part of the general trend for women to return to or stay in the workforce.

In looking at various explanations for the reversal, Gittins notes that, in earlier times, a lot of the supposed early retirement was involuntary, while more recently there's been a lot fewer involuntary departures from the workforce. In addition, he notes that "the now ageing baby boomers are healthier and better educated than the generation that preceded them" so that "they may have higher expectations for retired comfort than could be satisfied by just the proceeds of the age pension." Finally, while he believes that prejudice against older workers is dissipating rapidly, this is "less because of the sermons than because of the shortage of experienced, steady workers. Market forces strike again."

Source: Sydney Morning Herald "Another myth bites the dust" (February 7, 2007)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Webcast--February 14: "Retaining the Energy and Expertise of Experienced Employees"

The Human Capital Institute (HCI) is hosting a free webcast on February 14 from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM EST will explore proven techniques for developing, motivating, and managing an aging workforce with highly valuable skills and experience. William C. Byham, Ph.D., will present "70 Is the New 50: Retaining the Energy and Expertise of Experienced Employees," addressing the elements of a retirement management system, how retirement fits into a broader talent management system, and how to effectively implement a successful retirement management program.

To register for the webcaset, click here. Following the event, HCI archives its webcasts.

Source: Human Capital Institute Press Release (January 30, 2007)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Study: Links between the Work and Health of Older Women Go Unexplored

A report issued by Help the Aged and The Age and Employment Networks (TAEN) hows how little is known about the work and health of older women. According to the findings of of the paper--"Older Women, Work and Health--reviewing the evidence", greater commitment to age and gender equality is needed in occupational health research, the organisation of work, workplace health interventions and in the framing of wider social policy if the needs of older working women are to be met.
Pamela Holmes, healthy ageing spokeswomen for Help the Aged, says: “We believe taking action in mid-life is vital to preventing deprivation and to reducing the risk of ill health in old age. Women live longer than men, but earn far less, with lower levels of savings and pension provision. It’s critical that women who need or want to work in their 50s and beyond should be able to so – and for work to be beneficial rather than detrimental to their health.

“We hope the publication of this report will help draw attention to the gaps in our knowledge in this important area. We urge government, employers, occupational health professionals and researchers to take steps to address the issues raised.”
Source: The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) Press Release (November 7, 2006)