Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wales: Report Issued on Importance of Older Workers To Boost Economy

As reported by Aled Blake of the Western Mail, a report issued by the Wales Management Council and Age Concern Cymru shows that more people working past the official retirement age would boost the economy in Wales. The report calls on more to follow the lead of business leaders who continue to work despite their age and warns that employers need to shed negative attitudes towards these workers if they are to capitalise on this reservoir of talent

Among other things, the report--"Older Workers in Wales"--also calls for :
  • the abolition of the offical retirement age;
  • training for bosses in how to help staff members to make better choices about retirement;
  • the introduction of continental style phased retirement, which avoid an abrupt and “often psychologically damaging” end to a person’s working life;
  • setting aside public funds to help older workers adapt their skills, with grants to help older workers in their search for suitable alternative jobs; and
  • employers to change their attitudes to flexible and part-time work, while at government level, there should be changes to the state pension regulations to avoid penalising those who stay on in work past the traditional retirement age.
Source: Wesern Mail "Older workers ‘can help economy'" (September 28, 2007)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Korea: Report on Coming Skills Shortages in Manufacturing Advises Industries To Make Better Use of Older Workers

According to a an article in The Hankyoreh, the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) has announced findings on employment policies for aging workers in South Korea’s leading companies in manufacturing industry including steel, shipbuilding and automobile suggesting that with the workforce of the nation’s manufacturing industry rapidly aging, South Korea will soon be faced with a vacuum in the manufacturing industry similar to the one experienced by Japan when that nation’s baby boom generation retired en masse.

For example, at one steel company, as sales have increased for the past three years, the amount of employees has decreased 9.7% and in the process, the average age of employees has risen to 42.1 from 40.1. At a shipbuilder, the number of department managers rose almost 10 times from 1985 to 2005, but the number of deputy managers has been cut in half, but out of the total number of the company’s manufacturing employees, the ratio of those in their 50s has increased from 16.7% in 1999 to 31.6% in 2006.
[Choi Hee-seon of the KIET] advised industries to introduce a peak salary system, in which older workers would not be forced to retire as they are now, and would be given the option of continuing to be employed with a salary decrease that inversely corresponds to their increasing age. The current system forces retirement at age 58 and offers workers an increasing salary that directly corresponds to increases in age until retirement. Choi says that using the peak salary system would allow companies to make better use of older workers. He also advised improving the work process in order to increase the productivity of middle-aged and elderly workers.
Source: The Hankyoreh "As society ages, S. Korea could face vacuum in manufacturing" (September 21, 2007)

Survey: Younger and Older Workers Appreciate Diversity of Age in the Workplace

A survey of older and younger employees in the United Kingdom shows that working in a mixed aged workforce is important for both older (66%) and younger (65%) workers with all recognizing the benefits of working with people of mixed ages. In the study commissioned by Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, 40% of older workers believe their younger colleagues teach them skills they previously did not have, while one third of younger workers believe older workers are more likely to work anti-social hours than colleagues their own age.
Lesley Strathie, Chief Executive, Jobcentre Plus commented: "The research shows that having the right balance of age and skills can bring numerous benefits to establishing a complete workforce for both employers and employees. Both older and younger workers appreciate and learn from the qualities each brings to the workplace."
Among other findings in the study:
  • Younger workers think their older colleagues bring experience (94%), reliability (66%), and understanding (63%);
  • two thirds of older workers are impressed by their younger co-workers ability to learn quickly, be flexible (61%), and give them energy (51%); and
  • Younger workers stated that their older colleagues were more likely to be left in charge (60%), while over half of older workers believe their younger colleagues to be more likely to take risks, with 16% commenting that they are also more likely to be given manual tasks.
Source: JobCentre Plus News Release (Sepbember 26, 2007

Related Stories: Globe and Mail "Young, old and in-between: an we all get along?" by Jim Grey September 28, 2007 "Younger boss, older worker: Cooperation, communication can overcome age differences" by Karl W. Ritzler September 28, 2007

United Kingdom: Extensive Research Study Highlights Employers' Approach to Older Workers

A qualitative study looking at how United Kingdom employers are responding to an ageing workforce carried out by the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) and published by the Department of Work and Pensions suggests that most employers say they have positive attitudes to older workers, although they are more reluctant to recruit the over-50s and training seems to tail off for this group. Many employers claim to prefer older workers to younger ones, because of their attitudes to work and their experience. Small firms were particularly likely to keep older people on after State Pension Age.

The study--"Employer Responses to an Ageing Workforce"--was authored by Professor Stephen McNair, Director of CROW, Matt Flynn and Nina Dutton and is based on in-depth interviews with either a senior human resource (HR) manager or a general manager at one of 70 firms, across nine occupational sectors, with a wide geographical spread. According to the summary introduction to this 188-page report:
This study has found that awareness of the Age Regulations is high among employers and that, in general, most are sympathetic to avoiding age discrimination in the workplace, although many do not make the connection between this and business needs, partly perhaps because they are unaware of long term demographic trends. Attitudes towards 'older' workers were generally positive, while young people were viewed more negatively and rarely seen as victims of age discrimination. There was a good deal of change in HR practices generally, but rarely as a sole result of the Regulations. Positive practices on retention of existing workers were much more common than active policies on recruitment. Employers were most likely to be anxious about the implementation of the new provisions on retirement, and the management challenges which this might present. In this area defensive responses appeared sometimes to be having the opposite effect to that intended by Government. The attempt to minimise risk and workloads for managers was a common theme. Within the limitations of the sample interviewed, there was no evidence of regional variation in employer behaviour.
Source: Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 455--"Employer responses to an ageing workforce: a qualitative study" (September 27, 2007)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

AARP Announces 2007 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

In introducing its picks for the 2007 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50, AARP highlighted the number of major multi-national corporations demonstrating that enlightened policies toward 50+ employees make good business sense. Thus, for its top position, AARP named SC Johnson, a company based in Racine, Wisconsin, with operations in more than 70 countries, which, among other forward-looking practices, offers a range of flexible work arrangements that enable workers to balance their professional and personal lives--including an on-site medical center and various wellness, fitness and recreation programs; an on-site education program that provides lifelong learning and college credits; and paid sabbaticals to experienced employees.

Announcing that selection, along with the Principal Financial Group, its 9th selection, and Michelin North Americam, its 44th, AARP CEO Bill Novelli said that "[i]nternational companies that take a world class approach in their policies toward 50 and over workers understand that the result is more productive employees."

AARP alsp announced the winners of its annual Bernard E. Nash Awards for Innovation. Chosen from all applicants for the Best Employers honor, AARP singled out Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wisconsin, for flexible work options; Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation of Huntsville, Alabama, for retiree work opportunities; and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of Chicago, Illinois, for training and development opportunities.

Source: AARP News Release (September 25, 2007)

Survey: Talent Gap Widens as Workforce Ages in G7 Countries

According to a study conducted by Towers-Perrin on behalf of AARP, as the number of workers reaching traditional retirement years increase in the G7 countries, the marketplace is experiencing a decline in the number of skilled younger workers available to fill in the ranks of those retiring. Thus, suggests AARP, employers must end age discrimination in the workplace if countries and employers are to be best positioned to thrive in the global economy tomorrow.

The study--International Profit from Experience--was released in advance of a conference on the same sponsored by AARP, in partnership with the European Commission, the Business Council for the United Nations and Nikkei. Among the survey's key findings:
  • Age discrimination is the single largest barrier for those 50+ who want to continue working past their anticipated retirement age, with at least 60% of employees 50+ in each G7 country viewing age discrimination as the primary barrier to securing new jobs;
  • Older workers in the G7 countries want to continue to work on average an additional 5 years;
  • Surges of immigration and productivity that might offset the anticipated decline in skilled workers are unlikely to occur; and
  • Allowing employees to continue working past their traditional retirement age will not only allow older workers to remain in their careers and stay active, but will have a positive impact on an employer’s bottom line.
Line Vreven, Director of AARP International, says that “While the survey clearly identifies the talent gaps emerging within G7 countries, the responses by employers do not sufficiently address this challenge.” In addition, those "nations working to actively retain older workers and are providing incentives, rather than deterrents, to their continued employment, will reap economic gain in the long-run.”

An executive summary of the full 124-page report is also available.

Source: AARP Press Release (September 25, 2007)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Census Bureau Releases Profile of Older Workers in Vermont

The Census Bureau, under the federal-state Local Employment Dynamics (LED) partnership, has launched a series of reports on workers 55 and older for more than 30 states. Vermont is the third state to be released, to be followed by Indiana, Arkansas and Hawaii. The Vermont report is available online.

Source: Census Bureau What's New (September 20, 2007)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

United States: Census Figures Show More Older Workers

According to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, nationally, 23.2% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 were in the labor force (either working or looking for work) in 2006--an increase from 19.6% in 2000.

On a regional basis, states with some of the lowest rates of older workers in the labor force included West Virginia (15.7%), Michigan (18.8%) and Arizona (19.4%), while some of the highest rates were found in South Dakota, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., all with about one-third of people in this age group in the labor force.

Among the 20 largest metro areas, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of people in the labor force in this age group (31.8%), followed by Boston (28.1%), Dallas-Fort Worth (27.9%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (27.4%), and Houston (26.5%).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau News Release (September 12, 2007)

Related Stories: Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Census: Retirement age doesn't mean 65" (September 12, 2007); Washington Post "Area Leads Nation in Putting Off Retirement" (September 12, 2007)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Retirement Decisions of Two-Career Couples

Marilyn Gardner, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor presented a new angle on employee retirement decisions: what should dual career couples do? Overall, from a financial viewpoint, she writes that experts suggest that a staggered retirement works best. This works from the financial perspective, where leaving the workforce at different times may give one spouse time to earn more and serves as a hedge against uncertain financial markets or provide health insurance for a retired partner who is not yet 65 and thus eligible for Medicare. However, finances are not the whole story:
Couples stagger retirements for other reasons as well. "Typically the wife is a little younger and took time out for raising children," says Ronald Manheimer, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville. "She came back into the workforce and is short of achieving full pension capability or is enjoying her level of accomplishment. She's not willing to give it up yet."
Source: Christian Science Monitor "Dual-career couples: Who retires when?" (September 9, 2007)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Survey Shows Flexibility of Older Workers, Openness to New Tasks

Research conducted in the United Kingdom by Talent Q, shows that older workers can often be the most flexible--that as people get older they become increasingly willing to take on new tasks and more varied roles. The research, based on in-depth analysis of over 5,700 workers, challenges the common preconception that older workers are unwilling to accommodate change and that they may be unresponsive to new challenges presented in the workplace.

In other findings, the study showed that older workers are happy to work on their own and take a leading role without the need for much guidance, and that they demonstrate a high level of ability in building successful working relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers. "While it was shown that workers in their fifties and sixties are much less ambitious than their younger colleagues, this is probably just an indication that they have already achieved their goals or have decided that they are happy with their lot in life."
Steve O’Dell, chief executive of Talent Q, said: “Older people in the workplace might sometimes be viewed as being stuck in their ways and a little less sharp. Our research gives a very different perspective.

“Talent Q found that older workers are less preoccupied about climbing the career ladder and that they tend to be happy, fulfilled and confident. As a result, they are glad to take on new work or projects, and aren’t unduly phased by lots of changes. They tend to plough on regardless--a fact that employers are quickly discovering can be a real benefit to their business."
Source: Taent Q Age Research (September 5, 2007)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Survey: Ageism Isn't Only About Old People

According to a online poll sponsored by Age Lessons (conducted online by Harris Interactive, plus follow-up interviews by Age Lessons), younger workers [36% of 18-34 year olds] are more likely to say they experienced age discrimination than older, 35+ workers [24%]. Significantly, 93% of respondents said they had “witnessed or experienced” ageism and were hesitant to report it for reasons including a perceived inability to change the status quo, fear of being labeled a problem or getting targeted for future layoffs.
“Ageism isn't about old people, it's about all people. To avoid a ‘war of the ages' in the workplace, companies need to address generational diversity across the age spectrum and develop strategies for leveraging the richness and value-add of a diverse workforce,” noted Laurel Kennedy, Age Lessons president.
Among other findings, younger workers told interviewers that older workers seemed to be “kicked to the curb” at a disproportionately high rate during layoffs. This led them to wonder out loud about how loyalty was being repaid by employers.

Source: Age Lessons Press Release (September 5, 2007)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Economic Analysis by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Suggests Older Workers Face Reduced Wages

A working paper issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston provides strong empirical support for this hypothesis that the increasing relative supply of older workers would lower the wage premium paid for older, more experienced workers.

One consequence of demographic change is substantial shifts in the age distribution of the working age population. As the baby boom generation ages, the usual historical pattern of there being a high ratio of younger workers relative to older workers is increasingly being replaced by a pattern of there being roughly equal percentages of workers of different ages.

According to "Population Aging, Labor Demand, and the Structure of Wages" by Margarita Sapozhnikov and Robert K. Triest, econometric estimates imply that the size of one’s birth cohort affects wages throughout one’s working life, with members of relatively large cohorts (at all stages of their careers) earning a significantly lower wage than members of smaller cohorts. The cohort size effect is of approximately the same magnitude for men and for women. Their results suggest that cohort size effects are quantitatively important and should be incorporated into public policy analyses.
These results imply that older workers will face increasingly unfavorable relative labor market conditions as their ranks become crowded by the baby boom generation in the near future. Although the slowing of labor force growth may create tight labor markets, the pecuniary benefits of labor market tightness will disproportionately accrue to younger, less experienced workers. Loss of defined benefit pensions and increases in Social Security’s normal retirement age may result in baby boomers retiring at older ages than did the birth cohorts that immediately preceded them, but the boomers will suffer from the same cohort crowding effects on wages, as they consider retirement that they did earlier in their careers.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper No. 07-08 (Abstract) (August 27, 2007)

Survey: AARP Finds Many Michigan Members Working Past Traditional Retirement Age

A mail survey of 3,000 Michigan AARP members age 50 to 62 finds that retiring comfortably at age 62 is not a reality for many of them who expect to work well past the traditional retirement age due to increased longevity and rising health care costs. In the research report written by Erica L. Dinger, J.D., AARP Knowledge Management--"What Retirement? Working and Learning for AARP Members in Michigan", of the 832 members currently working or looking for work:
  • 36% work full-time and 9% part-time;
  • 49% consider it extremely (27%) or very (22%) likely that they will continue working beyond retirement;
  • 54% say health insurance coverage is a major factor in their decision to continue working, while 45% enjoy working, 44% need extra income, and 41% need income to pay for prescription drugs;
  • 37% intend to work at their current jobs as long as possible;
  • 23% think they will retire at age 60-64 and 37% at 65-69; 20% estimate retiring at age 70 or older.
Source: AARP Policy & Research (September 2007)