Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Workplace Flexibility Groups Look To Greater Employer Engagement

The Sloan Foundation, which has funded numerous research studies around workplace flexibility, gathered many of those researchers and allied business and labor leaders, and government and military officials for a two-day effort to build on what Kathleen Christensen, Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, termed a "growing consensus that workplace flexibility--in its many forms--can improve lives, support business objectives and strengthen the economy." Among the goals of the "Focus on Workplace Flexibility" gathering, held in Washington, DC, was to strengthen existing partnerships and to accelerate the process of making flexibility a standard of the American workplace. According to speakers, four-fifths of workers want flexibility, but only 29% have it, even though research shows that businesses do not lose profit by endorsing flexible workplaces.

Various research papers were presented at the event, including one focused on older workers ("Phased Retirement and Workplace Flexibility for Older Adults: Opportunities and Challenges" by Richard Johnson of the Urban Institute). In introducing some of these issues, Christensen noted how much is changing around retirement: retirement has become a joint decision for families for the first time, employees are working longer, and spouses are retiring at different times.

Source: Focus on Workplace Flexibility (November 29-30, 2010)

Singapore: Government Employees Will Be Able Secure Post-Retirement Beginning in July 2011

Singapore's Public Service Division has issued guidelines that will allow employees in the Singapore Public Service can look forward to early implementation of re-employment guidelines in July 2011, ahead of the national legislation. Specifically, re-employment will give officers the opportunity to work up to age 65 and, later, up to age 67, if, among other things:
  • an officer has, in the three years prior to retirement, put in satisfactory work performance as well as have no disciplinary action taken against them;
  • an officer is medically fit to continue working;
  • public service organisations may re-employ officers in jobs similar to that before retirement, or on other arrangements such as part-time, job-sharing, or project work; and
  • eligible officers must be informed at least six months before retirement to discuss re-employment, with an offer to be made at least three months before retirement.
Source: Prime Minister's Office Public Services Division Press Release (November 30, 2010)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Study: Retirement Good for One's Physical and Mental Fatigue

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, while retirement does not change the risk of major chronic diseases, it is associated with a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms, particularly among people with chronic diseases. In "Effect of retirement on major chronic conditions and fatigue: French GAZEL occupational cohort study", the authors, led by Dr. Hugo Westerlund from Stockholm University, followed a large occupational cohort in France and looked at respiratory disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, mental fatigue, and physical fatigue, measured annually by self report over a 15-year observation period.
Several explanations of these findings are possible. If work is tiring for many older workers, the decrease in fatigue could simply reflect removal of the source of the problem. Also, without the demands of work, participants may feel less concerned about limited energy, leading to lower ratings of fatigue. Furthermore, retirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise.
The authors note, however, that participants in the study retired at 55 or close to that age, due to generous retirement provisions in France and from their employer, so that their findings may not apply to settings in which people retire later.

Writing an editorial "Is early retirement good for your health?" in the same issue of the BMJ, Alex Burdorf, PhD, Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, echoed these concerns and stated that "[r]esearch is needed to corroborate these findings in other countries with a substantially higher age of retirement."

Source: British Medical Journal Abstract (November 24, 2010)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Research FInds 55 Plus Workers Remain Unemployed Longer than Younger Workers

New research from Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work and the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University shows that older job seekers often face daunting challenges in finding employment compared to younger workers. Specifically, according to "The “New Unemployables” -- Older Job Seekers Struggle to Find Work During the Great Recession", co-authored by Maria Heidkamp, Carl Van Horn and Nicole Corre, among job seekers unemployed during the recent recession, adults aged 55+ are finding it increasingly difficult to land a job and are more likely to remain out of work longer than younger job seekers.

Among other findings:
  • 84% of older workers followed who were unemployed in August 2009 were still unemployed in March 2010, and 67% of older job seekers included in the survey reported looking for work longer than a year;
  • 12% of the older workers surveyed had taken new education or training courses in the past year, compared to 20% of younger job seekers;
  • 13% of older job seekers had used online social networking sites, compared to 28% of younger job seekers;
  • 64% of older job seekers rated the job search tools they were using as not helpful, compared to 49% of younger job seekers.
Sources Sloan Center on Aging & Work News (November 16, 2010); New York Times Economix Blog "Older Job-Seekers More Willing to Take a Pay Cut" (November 17, 2010)

EEOC Hears Testimony on Impact of Recession and Age Discrimination on Older Worrkers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a meeting at which various experts testified that age discrimination is causing the nation’s older workers to have a difficult time maintaining and finding new employment, a problem exacerbated by the downturn in the economy. The hearing was conducted at a time in which the number and percentage of age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC have grown, rising from 16,548 charges--21.8% of all charges--filed in fiscal year 2006, to 22,778--24.4% of all charges--in fiscal year 2009.

In the leadoff testimony, Dr. William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, testified that the rate of unemployment for people age 55 and over "rose from a pre-recession low of 3.0 percent (November 2007) to reach 7.3% in August, 2010, making the past 22 months the longest spell of high unemployment workers in this age group have experienced in 60 years." Older workers also spend far more time searching for work and are jobless for far longer periods of time compared to workers under 55.

In addition, the EEOC heard testimony on legal issues from Mary Anne Sedey, Partner, Sedey Harper P.C., Michael Foreman, Clinical Professor, Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law, and R. Scott Oswald, Principal, The Employment Law Group. This was followed by testimony on employer best practices from Deborah Russell, Director, Workforce Issues, American Association of Retired Persons and Cornelia Gamlem, President, GEMS Group and Society for Human Resource Management. Among other things, Gamlem highlighted strategies to create discrimination-free workplaces that recognize the value of older workers; programs, such as flexible work arrangements, that enable employees to work longer if they choose to do so; and ways to implement reductions-in-force to avoid inadvertent age-based discrimination.
"Hard working men and women should never be harassed at work or forced out of their jobs on account of their age,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “The testimony we heard today also sheds light on some of the unique challenges faced by older job seekers and will be invaluable as the Commission works to strengthen its enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act."

"The treatment of older workers is a matter of grave concern for the Commission,” said EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru. “We must be vigilant that employers do not use the current economy as an excuse for discrimination against older workers.'
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release (November 17, 2010)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Germany: Government Reaffirms Commitment To Raising Retirement Age

According to news reports, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed that the plan to raise the retirement age gradually beginning in 2012 from 65 to 67 will proceed and presented a report showing improved employment opportunities for older workers. Von der Leyen said that the employment rate for those aged 60 to 65 is currently at 38% and has doubled in the last 10 years; furthermore, without the changes, Germany would be forced to cut pensions or drastically increase employee contributions.

Economists cited in the daily Financial Times Deutschland argued this trend should continue--Martin Dietz from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) told the paper that an employment rate of 50% was possible for over-60 workers.

The retirement change will begin in 2012, with those born in 1947 having to work one month extra. The transition is to be complete years later when those born in 1967 retire at the age of 67.

Sources: Deutsche Welle "Government sticks to plan for retirement age to increase to 67"; The Local "Labour Ministry defends raising retirement to 67" (November 17, 2010)

Monday, November 15, 2010

European Parliament Calls on Solidarity between Generations including "50-plus Employment Pact Initiative"

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for measures to improve job prospects for young and old, and so reduce the costs of funding social security and pensions. The "the demographic challenge and solidarity between generations" resolution addresses rising longevity and a declining birth rate in Europe, stating that access to employment should be at the core of policy-making between generations, as younger and older people face higher levels of unemployment.

Among other things, the resolution proposes that the European Commission and member states take "a fifty-plus employment pact initiative" to increase the share of workforce aged over 50 to 55%, eliminate early retirement incentives, combat aged-based discrimination and to develop incentives and opportunities for workers over the age of 60 to pass on their knowledge and experience. Included would be "setting country-specific targets for access to training and lifelong learning for older workers, broken down by age group and gender, thus increasing the proportion of people of all generations in initial and further training; and facilitating access to training for older workers by the setting up of incentives/bonuses by employers for older workers who decide to continue their education after the age of 50."

The resolution also calls on the Commission to develop a proposal to make 2012 "the European Year of Active ageing and Solidarity between generations", which will highlight the contribution of older people to society.

A background report on on the demographic challenge and solidarity between generations is also available.

Source: European Parliament Press Release (November 11, 2010)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

United Kingdom: 50 Plus Workers Want To Retire Earlier, Note Career Stagnation

A survey conducted by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) and Cranfield School of Management reports that even though mandatory retirement will end in the United Kingdom and the retirement age will rise to 66 in 2020, on average workers want to retire at 61. In addition, the study--"Change at any Age"--finds that there is considerable stagnation in the careers of many over 50s, and many employers are not currently doing enough to prevent this and the loss of skills and attitudinal problems that result.

The study noted the stagnation in different trends. For example, the average time since individuals had made their last transition was, for those under 30 year olds, 12 months, while it was 28 months for for 31-50 year olds, and 37 months for over 50 year olds. In addition, while romotions were the most common form of career transition overall, older workers were less likely to have been promoted outside of their current business unit. Older workers were also more likely to have reduced the number of hours that they work.
Rachel Krys, Campaign Director at the Employers Forum on Age, comments: "As employment rates have risen in the past decade, there are now a lot more people remaining in their jobs for longer before they retire. However, our study tells us that many employers do not have the correct measures in place to motivate older workers and help them develop. This means that apathy may set in amongst the workforce once it reaches a certain age, which has a detrimental effect on both individuals' own working lives and those around them. Workers now need to have more than one career in their lifetime to keep them motivated as they get older, so therefore many employers must change the way they manage people in the future."
Source: Employers Forum on Age Press Release (November 11, 2010)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Wealthy Never Retire According to Barclay's Report

According to a survey of wealthier individuals issued by Barclay's Wealth, most of those surveyed want to keep on working in some form and never intend stopping, even if they have little financial need to do so. Barclay's The Age Illusion: How the Wealthy are Redefining Their Retirement calls these people "Nevertirees" and says that they "are very actively engaged in what we would traditionally regard as their retirement years; continuing to work, starting businesses and taking on new projects." Some 60% of respondents say they envision always being involved in commercial or professional work of some kind, whatever their age.

However, while the corporate sector will gain from their experience at the board level, businesses may worry about how to get individuals eventually to step down. In addition, continuing to work may complicate succession issues at firms.
Sarah Harper thinks increasing numbers will want to keep on working but not necessarily in the same role. As lead investigator on Oxford's Ageing Workforce Programme, she has recently completed a study on "Extending Late Life Work" and she says, "We do a lot of work around the importance of the age of 50 to 70 - an age when you're incredibly experienced, you've got so much to offer, but maybe want a second career. Maybe you want to do something different, or maybe you want to stay in the same work but in a different role."
Source: TAEN "The Rise of the Nevertirees" (November 11, 2010)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ireland: Older Workers Faring Better in Recession in Both North and South

According to the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), older people are better represented in the workforce in Ireland, North and South, than in the past and have been less affected by unemployment during the recession than their younger counterparts. This information was presented at a seminar on "Living Longer, Working Longer" at which CARDI also explored issues such as the impact of an aging population on Ireland’s workforce, North and South; the reasons why some people retire early and others continue working; and the urgent need for research on older people’s experiences in the workforce in light of the fact that the retirement age is set to rise.

On the statistical front, the number of workers aged 55 or older rose by 73% in the Republic of Ireland between 1998 and 2008 (up 120,000) and by 50% in Northern Ireland (up 35,000). In particular, older women have benefited, with the female labour force participation rate at age 55-59 jumping in the Republic of Ireland by a full 20 percentage points, from 30% to 50%, and for women aged 60-64 increasing from 17% to 33%.
“The pension age in both the Republic of Ireland will rise to 66 in 2014 and Northern Ireland in 2016 and later to 68,” said [Paul McGill, Strategic Research Officer with CARDI]. “At the same time, the numbers of older people in Ireland as a whole are steadily increasing: by 2041, it is estimated there will be 1.89 million people aged 65 and over. In light of this, government and employers need to make provisions now to accommodate older workers."
CARDI cited a number of reasons why older people are better represented in Northern Ireland’s current workforce than they were in the past, including:
  • employers having greater difficulty offering pension top-ups to encourage early retirement;
  • the outlawing of discrimination against older workers is beginning to have an effect;
  • older people may have been worried by increases in food and fuel prices during the economic boom and, as a result, decided to hold on to their jobs for longer; and
  • Poor private pension provision.
Source: Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland News (November 10, 2010)

Russia: No Plans To Raise Retirement Age

In an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says that there are no plans to raise the retirement age, even if there are shortfalls in the Russian pension system and one of the lowest retirement ages. According to Medvedev, the much lower mortality age in Russia dictates a different approach to retirement age than in other Western countries.
“In a society where people live up to 90 years, retirement at the age of 70 appears to be normal. In such a society people are confident that with the high level of health care and proper attention to their own health after retirement they have many years to rest, travel around the world and spend time with grandchildren,” the president said.

“It’s not so simple here. And this is why we cannot just copy Western pension systems. Our life standards are different. And the average life expectancy is different too,” he added.
However, Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said the country might need to increase the retirement age in several years.

Source: ITAR-TASS "Medvedev says no plans to raise retirement age in Russia in near futurŠµ" (November 11, 2010)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

France: Pension Reforms Signed into Law

According to press reports, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has signed into law pension reform changes that will gradually raise by two years the minimum retirement age and the fully pensionable retirement age, to 62 and 67, respectively. The signing followed immediately on the approval of those provisions by the Constitutional Council.

The Council's decision and the law are available in the Journal Officiel of November 10, 2010.

As noted in the Washington Post, this change is viewed by some outside France as only a moderate change:
Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Center for European Reform in London, says Sarkozy "had no choice" other than to get the reform through because otherwise France's - and his - credibility would have suffered.

"For anyone outside of France, this looks like a pretty modest move forward," he said. "Other EU countries are moving much much more rapidly" on pension reform.

France has the highest life expectancy in Europe but still one of the lowest retirement ages, prompting Tilford to predict that retirement issues will come up again before markets believe that France has its finances in order.

"A retirement age of 62 is still far far too low," he said.
Sources: Reuters "France's disputed pension reform becomes law" (November 10, 2010); Washington Post "Sarkozy signs the law: French retire at 62, not 60" (November 11, 2010)

Friday, November 05, 2010

United Kingdom: Study Shows Offshore Workers are Getting Younger

In a sign that concerns about an aging workforce in the energy sector may be receding, Oil & Gas UK has released a report showing that, for 2009, the average age of offshore workers is 40.4 years old--the lowest since the industry body began compiling this data in 2006. According to "Oil & Gas UK Workforce Demographic Report 2009," there is also evidence of much younger workers taking up positions in key areas, with, for example, increases in the numbers of 18 to 23 year olds and 24 to 29 year olds working in areas such as deck crew, drilling, electrical, management, production, rigging and scaffolding.
Oil & Gas UK’s health, safety and employment issues director, Robert Paterson, said: “Oil & Gas UK’s latest offshore workforce demographics report highlights some very positive findings indeed.

“It’s encouraging to see evidence of not only the youngest recorded average age of offshore workers but more and more young people under the age of 30 taking up important skilled jobs in key areas of the offshore industry.

“I think we can now put the myth to bed that the North Sea and wider UKCS has an ageing workforce."
Source: Oil & Gas UK Press Release (November 4, 2010)