Thursday, May 29, 2008

Older Workers Face Increased Health Risks from Past Exposure to Lead

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic have published the results of a study showing that older workers with past occupational exposure to lead face increased risk for recirculation of lead into their bloodstreams later in life. As published in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, the article--"Past Occupational Exposure to Lead: Association Between Current Blood Lead and Bone Lead"--found that that lead stored in bone is a significant source of blood lead later in life and that older workers with past occupational exposure may face a particular risk for recirculation of lead in blood with advancing age.

Medical News Today quotes lead author Lisa A. Morrow, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Institute, as saying that the study "found that even workers with no current workplace exposure to lead--but who have had considerable past exposure--show increasing levels of lead in their blood as they age." The other authors are Herbert Needleman, M.D., Christine McFarland, Kim Metheny and Michael Tobin.

Source: Medical News Today "Risks From Occupational Lead Exposure Last A Lifetime, Pitt Study Finds - Combination Of Age And Early Exposure To Lead Significantly Increase Risk" (May 26, 2008)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Jersey: 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 New Jersey, the tenth state to be released in the series.Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in New Jersey: 2004":
  • 16.6% of workers were 55 and older, while 4.0% were 65 and older;
  • the mining industry had the highest proportion of workers 55 and over (22.2%), followed by manufacturing (21.1%), educational services (21.0%), and real estate and rental and leasing (20.8%); and
  • the state's health care and social services industry employed the greatest number of older workers, with about 14.8% of the workers 55 and older being in that sector.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics What's New (May 27, 2008)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Canada: Survey Suggests Quebec Workers' Retirement Plans Not in Sync with Employer Needs for Older Workers

Even though organizations are facing labor shortages, 38% of Québec workers say they plan to retire before age 60, and 61% plan to retire between the ages of 55 and 64. These are some of results of a survey conducted by the Centre de Recherche sur l'Opinion Publique (CROP) for the Ordre des CRHA et CRIA du Québec (ORHRI). The survey showed that 15% of workers plan to retire at 65 to 69, 5% at 70 or older, and 5% with no plans to retire.
“In today’s environment, older workers represent a labour pool that employers can no longer do without. That’s why it’s crucial to review management practices to encourage willing pre-retirees to stay on the job as long as possible. Organizations need their valuable expertise,” explained Florent Francoeur, CHRP, Ordre President and CEO.
Workers were also asked about phased retirement, and 53% favored phased retirement, versus 41% who preferred complete retirement.
“The fact that only half the workers are considering phased retirement is of some concern. Yet people are now healthier and living longer than previous generations. So we have to create conditions to increase the numbers of workers who opt for phased retirement. For example, we could adjust benefits and compensation policies, and reorganize work within organizations,” added Francoeur.
Source: Ordre des CRHA et CRIA du Québec Press Release (May 22, 2008)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reality Check: Survey Shows Retail Industry Hires Most Older Workers

Maria L. La Ganga,writing for the Los Angeles Times, reports that an Urban Institute study due to be published in June 2008 shows that the retail industry employs more older Americans than any other, with nearly 350,000 men and women 65 or older earn paychecks in U.S. stores. "In fact, the nation's stores employ more people 65 and over than the next two occupations [farming and janitorial work] combined, which worries some advocates who are trying to encourage the federal government, the country's biggest corporations and other employers to keep older workers on the payroll.

In introducing her readers to some examples of older workers in the retail industry, La Ganga does capture the sense that this is not the result many have expected in the field:
"These are not exactly the pictures of reinvention that you get in your monthly issue of Fortune, Money or AARP magazine," said Marc Freedman, author of "Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life." This is "an object lesson in the dangers of what could happen if we don't develop a compelling human resource strategy for an aging society."

But though Freedman worries that "the golden years are being transformed into the Wal-Mart decade," he does acknowledge that the retail industry provides benefits, flexibility and jobs, particularly for less-educated workers.
Source: Los Angeles Times "Just one word for older job-seekers: retail" (May 23, 2008)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book: How a Few Additional Years in the Labor Force Can Make a Big Difference.a Retirement

The Brookings Institution Press has announced the release of Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge by Alicia Munnell and Steven Sass, the director and associate director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. According to the publisher, amid all the calls to fix Social Security, shore up employer pensions, and redesign 401(k) plans, the auhtors suggest that the most effective response to the retirement income challenge lies in remaining in the workforce longer: "By staying on the job for another two to four years, retirees in 2030 can be as well off as those in the current generation."
Working Longer investigates the prospects for moving the average retirement age from 63, the current figure, to 66. The authors ask whether future generations of workers will be healthy enough to work beyond the current retirement age, as well as whether older men and women are willing to do so. They examine companies’ incentives to employ older workers and ask what government can do to promote continued participation in the workforce. Finally, they consider the challenge of ensuring a secure retirement for low-wage workers and those who are unable to continue to work.
A summary of the book is available, as well as the authors' list of 10 myths and realities about working longer.

Source: Brookings Institution Press Book Announcement (May 2008)

For other books on older workers and the aging workforce, see The Aging Workforce News Book Store.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Survey: Crossgenerational Interaction Rare in the Workplace

Ranstad USA has released its annual look at the workplace and, among other things, reports that the different generations in the multigenerational workforces--Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Matures--have different definitions of experience, sharing and no consistent way to understand what each other has to offer. In its survey of 3,494 adults, 2008 World at Work shows that 51$ of the Boomers and 66% of the older "Matures" report little to no interaction with their younger colleagues.

Among the learnings shared by Ranstad:
  • The transfer of knowledge between retiring generations of veteran workers and newer entrants to the workforce is unlikely.
  • Perceptions of co-workers, particularly those in Gen Y, are based largely in stereotypes.
  • Each generation sees itself as bringing different strengths to the workplace that don’t enhance or expand the strengths of those older or younger.
Source: Reuters Life!"Workers of different ages don't chat enough: survey" (May 21, 2008)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ohio Establishes Senior Civic Engagement Council

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has established the Ohio Senior Civic Engagement Council to work to enhance volunteer, educational and employment opportunities for older Ohioans. Strickland said that "[t]he Council will work to keep them active and engaged in their communities and careers, as well as help employers prepare for changing workforce needs."

Among other things, the Council will coordinate with the Ohio Workforce Policy Board regarding senior employment policies and activities, collect data about the engagement of older adults in employment, and promote policies that enhance job opportunities available to older Ohioans. In addition, it will help business leaders and the workforce development system prepare for and offer services to Ohio’s growing number of older workers.

Source: Ohio Office of the Governor Press Release (May 20, 2008)

Additional Source: The (Lorain, OH) Morning Journal "Senior civic engagement council smart new policy to help Ohio move ahead" (May 21, 2008)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Research: Rising Health Care Costs Linked to Delayed Retirement

The Urban Institute's Retirement Policy Program has published a research article showing that older workers who expect high health care costs for themselves or their spouses after age 65 retire about later than those who expect low costs--13 months later if the worker is a man, 12 months later if a woman.

As Richard W. Johnson, Rudolph G. Penner, Desmond Toohey, the authors of "Rising Health Care Costs Lead Workers to Delay Retirement" point out, for those receiving health insurance from their employers, continued work reduces the risk of high out-of-pocket health care costs and increases retirement incomes--by raising earnings, boosting Social Security and employer sponsored pension wealth, improving the ability to save, and reducing the years over which retirement wealth must be spread--and therefore makes health care costs more affordable.

Source: Urban Institute Publication Release (May 18, 2008)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Singapore: Unions Track Employer Commitments to Rehiring Older Workers

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has established a four-tier framework to let unionized employers understand where they are in getting on track with respect to when Singapore's reemployment legislation kicks in come 2012. According to the NTUC, 433 out of the 1000 unionised companies have committed, at varying levels, with a total of 3910 older workers having been re-employed.

Under the NTUC's framework, a company can be categorized at on of four levels of commitment to reemployment:
  • Level 1 refers to companies that are already reemploying older workers, but on an ad-hoc basis.
  • Level 2 refers to companies that are already reemploying older workers and have a reemployment clause in their agreements with unions.
  • Level 3 refers to companies that have a formalized HR policy on re-employment.
  • Level 4 refers to companies that are pro-actively seeking out new initiatives to ensure that their re-employment efforts are sustainable and scalable.
Of the 433 companies committed to reemployment policies, 15% have in place a formalized HR policy, and the NTUC is working to encourage the other 85% to follow suit, so as to increase the proportion of companies at Levels 3 and 4.

Source: NTUC Press Release (May 13, 2008)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Older Workers Hold More Employer Securities in 401(k) Plans

According to a report issued by Financial Engines assessing how well Americans are handling their 401(k) plans, older plan participants are more likely to have high company stock concentrations. In particular, the report--The Financial Engines National 401(k) Evaluation--found that 43% of those over age 60 hold more than 20% of their 401(k) portfolios in company stock, compared to only 28% percent of those under age 30.

The report found similar trends with regard to higher concentrations of employer securities. For example, 25% of those over age 60 hold portfolios with 50% or more invested in company stock, compared to just 13% of those under age 30, and 15% of participants over age 60 hold 80% or more of their portfolios in company stock.

As Jeff Maggioncalda, president and CEO of Financial Engines, explained:
Unfortunately, the older employees holding the highest amounts of company stock have the least amount of time to recover if their company’s stock happens to take a hit. Many participants don’t realize that holding large amounts of company stock is actually a drag on the long-term growth of their portfolios.
Source: Financial Engines Press Release (May 12, 2008)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Japan: Government Falling Short in Ensuring that Employers Hire Older Workers

Kazuo Otsu, writing for the Daily Yomiyuri, examined whether the Japanese government is making good on its goal of a society in which people can continue to work regardless of their age. Japan's steps in this plan have included enforcing the revised Older Persons' Employment Stabilization Law in April 2006, under which companies are obliged to ensure there are job opportunities for workers up to the age of 65, effective April 2013, and implementing the revised Employment Measures Law to prohibit companies in principle from setting age limits for the recruiting of new employees.

According to Tomonari Higuchi, a business consultant in Yamagata Prefecture, "he often hears personnel managers referring to the difficulty of hiring aged workers."
"There's a remarkable number of people who feel they are treated like redundant baggage," said Higuchi, 51. "While there has been progress on a legislative level, in general the genuine intent of companies to hire elderly workers remains low."
Otsu notes, for example, that one job-seeker in his t0's was told "We only have young employees working here" when telephoning a company offering jobs stating no age limit.
Some employers openly admitted that not indicating an age limit was just a matter of expediency. Though the government can issue warnings to companies found to be flagrant transgressors of the law banning most age restrictions, the law itself has no penalty clauses.
Source: Daily Yomiyuri "Work for elderly remains elusive goal" (May 8, 2008)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Research: Employees without Other Health Insurance Less Likely To Retire

A Watson Wyatt analysis of retirement data finds that older workers without other health care insurance options are more likely to defer retirement to stay covered under their employer’s plan. While other factors, such as whether an employee has a pension, also contribute to decisions on when to retire, "employees who rely on their employers for health care coverage and do not expect to receive employer-provided health benefits in retirement are 16.5 percentage points less likely to retire in any given year than workers with access to health care coverage through another source."

The Watson Wyatt analysis--"Predictive Factors for Retirement Timing"--was made on data collected from 1992 to 2004 as part of the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study. Factors other than health care which influence retirement decisions include:
  • Retirement plan types. Having only a defined benefit increases the likelihood of retirement by 4.1 percentage points.
  • Public policies. The gradual increase of the age at which workers can retire and receive full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67, workers born in the 1940s are less likely to retire early than those born in the 1930s.
  • Household wealth. While workers’ household financial wealth obviously has an effect on their retirement decisions, the source of the wealth also makes a difference. For example, a $100,000 increase in expected income from a pension plan is more likely to prompt earlier retirement than an increase in housing equity.
Source: Watson Wyatt Worldwide Press Release (May 7, 2008)

United Kingdom: SME's Looking to Older Workers To Fill Skills Shortages

The Tenon Forum reports that entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom are increasingly relying on older workers to plug skills shortages in their businesses. Tenon regularly surveys small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and its latest research reveals that 30% of SMEs have a strong representation of employees aged over 50, with many businesses utilising the experience of older workers as coaches and mentors for younger employees (20%) or in the capacity of consultants following retirement (12%).

SMEs are looking to older workers to address concerns about skills shortages and that younger recruits are often just not up to the job: 34% report a lack of work readiness amongst graduates and 31% cite poor literacy and numeracy amongst school leavers as a key issue facing their business. Accordingly, 66% of SME leaders agree that the employment of workers aged 50 plus is a good solution to skills shortages, and 22% favor the hiring of older workers over college leavers as a solution to staffing problems.

According to Andy Raynor, CEO of Tenon:
Changes to pensions legislation, combined with the recent age discrimination legislation, are encouraging people to put their retirement on hold and continue working in some capacity, either as full-time or part-time employees, or as consultants. Older members of staff can bring huge benefits to an organisation and we expect to see more and more entrepreneurial businesses taking a flexible approach to recruitment and utilising this valuable skills base.
Source: Tenon Group Press Release (May 6, 2008)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Europe: Eurofound Report Examines Key Factors to Age and Working Conditions

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has published a report highlighting four factors that are key to shaping the age structure of Europe’s workforce: ensuring career and employment security; maintaining and promoting the health and well-being of workers; developing skills and competencies; and reconciling working and non-working life. The report--"Working conditions of an ageing workforce" was authored by Claudia Villosio, with Dario Di Pierro, Alessandro Giordanengo, Paolo Pasqua and Matteo Richiardi, of theLABORatorio Riccardo Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies in Italy.

The reports findings show that improving working conditions leads to better job sustainability over the lifecycle, which in turn can prevent early exit from the labor market and encourage stronger participation rates among older workers. The analysis is based on findings from the fourth European Working Conditions Survey carried out in 31 countries, including the 27 EU Member States.
The report reveals how age is an important factor in describing working conditions and that significant differences emerge between younger and older workers. For instance, compared with younger workers, older workers are less exposed to physical risks in the working environment and enjoy a higher degree of autonomy in the workplace and a lower degree of work intensity. However, they have fewer opportunities with respect to involvement in new organisational forms, training and learning new things at work. Young and older workers both share a higher probability of being subjected to acts of discrimination at the workplace and, to a lesser extent, of experiencing difficulties in accessing IT. For their part, middle-aged workers carry a heavier burden in relation to caring activities outside of work, as well as reporting a lower level of satisfaction with work–life balance.
Source: Eurofound Publication Notice (May 6, 2008)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Survey: MetLife Employee Benefits Study Shows Increased Focus on Retirement and Aging Workforce

The workplace has become the dominant starting point for building a strong financial safety net, with more than half of working Americans (52%) obtaining the majority of their financial and retirement products through the workplace, according to MetLife. In addition to providing a picture of corporate employee benefits, its "6th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends" includes a look at a growing focus on retirement and the aging workforce.
Employers are implementing a range of programs and accommodations. Large companies outpace smaller employers when it comes to offering retirement guides/information and training. About one-third of companies with 500 or more employees offer resources and programs for an aging workforce. However, smaller employers provide greater flexibility for working part-time in retirement. Among companies that provide resources/programs for an aging workforce, 44% with 2 to 499 employees provide part-time employment to retirees, compared to 35% with 500 or more employees.

Smaller employers are less likely to anticipate being affected by the aging workforce. Only 35% of employers with 2 to 499 employees think they will be greatly impacted, compared to 50% with 500 or more employees. One reason could be that employees at smaller companies expect to work until an older age. While the average employee at companies with 500 or more employees is anticipating retiring from full-time work at age 63, the average employee at smaller employers is planning to retire at age 65.
Source: MetLife Press Release (April 7, 2008)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Legislation Introduced in U.S. Senate To Expand Opportunities for Older Workers

Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Herb Kohl (D-WI), and Kent Conrad (D-ND) have introduced the "Incentives for Older Workers Act," which is designed to provide incentives and eliminate barriers for older Americans wishing to stay in the workforce longer, and encourage employers to recruit and retain older workers.
"This legislation confronts the changing face of retirement. The divide between working and retirement is no longer the bright line it once was. Many workers stay on the job longer, not just because they have to but also because their employers want them to stay," Senator Conrad said. "“What we offer in the Incentives for Older Workers Act would make sure older employees who want to cut back their work schedules won't lose pension benefits as a result."
The proposed legislation (S. 2933, text not yet available) would, among other things:
  • remove penalties in certain pension plans for workers who phase into retirement by receiving a lower salary while working reduced hours;
  • allow seniors to earn delayed retirement credits for Social Security purposes for an additional two years until age 72, instead of age 70;
  • reduce the amount of Social Security benefits lost to seniors who claim benefits before reaching normal retirement age and while they continue working;
  • require states to include older worker representatives on the state and local workforce investment boards and set aside five percent of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds to assist older individuals.
Source: U.S. Senate Select Commitee on Aging Press Release (April 29, 2008)