Friday, June 21, 2013

Norway: OECD Issues First Country Report on Encouraging Labor Participation by Older Workers

The OECD, as part of its aging and employment policies program to review of policies to encourage greater labor market participation at an older age by fostering employability, job mobility, and labor demand, has issued its first country report. In "Ageing and Employment Policies: Norway 2013. Working Better with Age," the OECD finds that Norway is better placed to cope with population ageing than most other countries, but that it could still do more to improve incentives and opportunities for people to stay working longer which would help ensure the country’s long-term future.

According to the report, Norway has the fourth-highest employment rate for the age group 55-64 in the OECD area, at 71% in 2012, but Norway’s labor market has a large share of older people on disability benefit: 19.6% of those aged 55-59 in the first quarter of 2012, and 30.5% of those aged 60-64. Among other things, (1) old age pensions for disabled people are to a large extent calculated as they were in the former pension system, and economic incentives to work are not much changed for public sector employees, (2) there is not enough consistency in the setting of age limits in the accrual of additional pension rights, employment protection legislation and other rules concerning mandatory retirement, and (3) even if most older workers in Norway are in stable and high-quality jobs, they experience a very low hiring rate, one-third of the OECD average.

The report recommends that Norway:
  • align second-pillar pension schemes for public sector employees with the main principles of the reformed national insurance scheme;
  • strengthen gate keeping to the disability scheme, in order to reduce inflows;
  • ensure greater age neutrality in employers’ personnel decisions, starting with the hiring process. An objective could be for the hiring rate of older workers in Norway to reach the OECD average;
  • simplify and co-ordinate age limit rules, with a view to removing age as a mandatory reason for retirement;
  • Ensure that the legislative and organisational framework is neutral with regard to part-time and full-time jobs, and support initiatives to promote a “full-time culture”.
Source: OECD Press Release (June 21, 2013)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

SHRM and AARP Announce 2013's Best Employers for Workers over 50

National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been announced as the top honoree in the 2013 search for the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50, cosponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The awards spotlight employers that have implemented programs that help retain, retrain, engage and recruit mature workers, and, among other things, NIH exemplifies the awards goals by providing generous health benefits and a “Fit Plus Program” that strongly supports the needs of employees 50 and over who are beginning or maintaining a fitness program. In addition, full-time employees are eligible to move to part-time work on a permanent or temporary basis.

Scripps Health of Southern California, the 2012 winner, and the 2013 runner-up, offers a number of alternative work arrangements, including a phased retirement program. Employees have an opportunity to gain new experience by working on temporary assignments in other departments, on team projects, and by having access to formal job rotation and mentoring programs. In addition, Scripps employees are able to take advantage of strong health benefits, and wellness-related benefits are used by more than two-thirds of the staff, including flu shots, health screenings, health risk appraisals, smoking cessation programs, health club discounts, physical activity and weight loss programs, on-site massages, and stress management training.

See AARP's website for a full list of the 50 winners, as well as links to descriptions of the employment practices and benefits that garnered their recognition.

Source: SHRM Press Release (June 17, 2013)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

PBS News Hour: Special Report on New Adventures for Older Workers

PBS News Hour has spent a year looking at the factors—demography, economics and just plain personal preference—that help explain what's happening to the American workforce as it ages. In a special project, "Special Report on New Adventures for Older Workers," led by David Pelcyger and Elizabeth Shell, PBS has provided a series of stories listed under Sources below, and an interactive web pages on a snapshot on what getting older is likely to cost one, working for the nest egg, working in retirement, and moving forward.

Sources: PBS News Hour "Without Money to Retire, Paramedic Must Stay Healthy to Keep Working" (June 14, 2013); "Heading Back to Work After Retiring" (June 13, 2013); "America's New Old Workforce: When Your Body Tells You It's Time to Retire" (June 10, 2013); "Will You Work Forever" (June 7, 2013)

Oregon: Aging Workforce Major Factor in Declining Labor Participation Rates

According to a report from the Oregon Employment Department's Workforce and Economic Research Division, the state's share of the population 16 years old and over that is employed or unemployed has fallen to the lowest level since the late 1970s. "Oregon’s Falling Labor Force Participation: A Story of Baby Boomers, Youth, and the Great Recession" explores the three major reasons for falling participation: the aging workforce, younger workers declining population, and the results of the Great Recession.

The report finds that Oregon’s labor force participation rate is at its lowest level since records began in 1976. Specifically, the state’s labor force participation rate peaked at 68.9% in 1998 and declined to 63.4% in 2012. Fully half of this decline can be attributed to the aging population--the movement of Oregon’s population into older age groups accounts for 3.2 percentage points of the overall drop. "In other words, the aging of the population into age groups with lower participation rates brings the overall rate down, even as participation rates in the older groups are on the rise."

With regards to the rise in participation rates of older workers, the report states:
Falling participation rates is not the story for every age group. Labor force participation has been on the rise for people aged 55 to 64 since 1986 (Graph 3). A number of factors are driving this trend. One factor has been improvements in health that allow workers to continue in the labor force longer than workers of past generations. A second factor has been the shift towards a service economy and away from a manufacturing economy. The shift resulted in less labor intensive “blue collar” jobs and more “white collar” jobs that are less physically demanding. A third factor is that workers have to work longer to build savings for retirement due to the move away from defined-benefit pensions and towards 401K plans. Dramatic financial market swings in recent years provide an additional challenge to older workers trying to determine if they have built up sufficient savings to retire.
Among other things, the report also poses the question whether it is time to change thinking that ages 25 to 54 are "prime working age." The report also states that while "Regions and industries with a large proportion of older workers may face a relative shortage of workers as more baby boomers reach retirement age," "there are enough younger people and their participation rates are far enough below historic averages that there should be enough replacement workers if they are given appropriate training and offered sufficient job opportunities."

Source: Oregon Employment Department Reports & Analysis (June 12, 2013)

Research: Older Workers are Not Bringing Down Average Wages, Help Workforce Producitivity

According to research from The Brookings Institution, an aging workforce had not dragged down average worker productivity over the past quarter century in the United States. Instead, Gary Burtless, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, reports in "The Impact of Population Aging and Delayed Retirement on Workforce Productivity," that improved education among the population past 60 and delays in retirement among better educated Americans have tended to boost the earnings of older workers compared with younger ones.
Using one standard benchmark of individual worker productivity—hourly wages—workers between 60 and 74 now earn more than an average worker who is between 25 and 59. The hourly pay premium for older men was about 22 percent in 2011. For older women it was about 10 percent. Other earnings benchmarks show a somewhat less favorable picture, but all of them show considerable improvement in the relative position of aged workers compared with the nonaged over the past two decades. None of the indicators of male productivity suggest that older male workers are less productive than average male workers who are between 25 and 59.
Burtless points to two factors for the surge in older workers’ earnings: (1) the sheer size of the baby boom generation means that the number of Americans attaining age 60 each year is climbing steeply; and (2) labor force participation rates of adults between 60 and 74 have increased.

Burtless also notes that a major reason for the surge in income is that older workers are now better educated compared with prime-age workers than was the case in the past. "Twenty-five years ago the gap in education between prime-age workers and older Americans was large. Americans past 60 had much less schooling than workers who were younger. That gap is now much narrower."

Source: The Brookings Institution UpFront Blog Post (June 10, 2013)