Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Research: Older Workers Supervised by Younger People May Result in Negative Emotions, Corporate Harm

A new study finds that the age gap between older workers and younger supervisors is linked to the frequency of emotions such as "anger, fear and disgust" among employees, and that more frequent negative emotions of this type are associated with lower company performance in areas such as financial results, growth, efficiency, and return on assets. The research was conducted in Germany and published as "Younger supervisors, older subordinates: An organizational-level study of age differences, emotions, and performance" in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, and was conducted by Dr Jochen Menges, University Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at Cambridge Judge Business School, and Professor Florian Kunze, Chair of Organisational Studies at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

According to Menges, they found that age gaps "can harm company performance by negatively influencing employee emotions. If the age gap is small, employees throughout a company are less likely to experience such negative emotions."
While the researchers do not question the effectiveness of merit-based promotion, “we do have evidence for some of the repercussions that companies are likely to face when moving away from traditional age structures and abandoning seniority-based promotion systems.” Companies should therefore think carefully about how to avoid such pitfalls, including less emphasis on “career timetables” and “hierarchical thinking” so employees would respond less emotionally to age differences.

The study’s findings on emotion suppression were complex and nuanced. Whereas some previous studies found emotion suppression at the individual level to be a demanding and socially costly strategy, “we show that emotion suppression can be an effective strategy in circumstances that involve emotionally taxing social interactions.”

“This finding should not be taken to imply that organisations should promote cultures of emotional suppression,” the study says. Instead, companies should “approach the challenges of age-inverse supervisory relationships in ways that benefit both the company at the organisational level and the employees at the individual level, rather than one or the other.”

Source: University of Cambridge Judge Business SchoolNews Release (December 19, 2016)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Research Finds Lack of Employer Support for Older Employees and Problem Drinking

According to a study conducted by the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), older adults in employment and facing retirement are being let down by employers when it comes to problem drinking. "Easing the transition: The relationship between alcohol and labour market activity in the over 50s population of the UK" sets out the specific barriers and challenges faced by over 50s with current or previous drinking problems at three stages of labour market activity: unemployment, employment and retirement.

Among other things, the report finds that it is older ages (60-69) of the professional occupational class that are most likely to be high risk drinkers. While only 6% under the age of 30 drink heavily, nearly 25% of those aged 60-69 drink heavily. In addition, the report concludes that there is a "blind spot" in support from employers and the state in preparing for retirement which falls short of emotional, health and social changes. "For those over 50s still employed stress, boredom, lack of control over work and retirement worries all contribute to drinking more."

The authors call for employers to introduce measures to assist employees over 50 who might be struggling with an alcohol problem, such as counseling and effective workplace policies that treat alcohol issues like any other health issue. In addition, the report calls for greater engagement from employers to staff pre- and post-retirement. This includes social clubs and guidance on how to avoid alcohol becoming a problem once working life is over.

Source: International Longevity Centre-UK Press Release (December 12, 2016)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Research: Older Workers Put Under Pressure by Long-term Job Insecurity

Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have published the results of a study finding that employees believing for multiple decades that they will lose their jobs leads to heightened levels of fear and distress. According to "Histories of Perceived Job Insecurity and Psychological Distress among Older U.S. Adults," as published in Society and Mental Health, the findings indicate stress from perceived job insecurity was high among minorities and those without a high school degree. "In addition, older workers may experience distress due to their circumstances."

Sarah Burgard, an associate professor of sociology and research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research. Burgard, said age discrimination or an employer's perception that health problems could become more prevalent later in life could endanger this older segment's ability to keep a job. "Those who face the worst burden are those who have faced uncertainty the longest, and it is important to think about the costs of restructuring a labor force and social supports in ways that create such vulnerable workers."

Source: University of Michigan News Release (December 7, 2016)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Research: Cognitive Aging May Not Link to Declining Productivity

According to a review of recent research comparing the productivity of workers in their 20s to workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, age appears to be unrelated to performance in most occupations. This is contrary to suggestions that cognitive aging might hinder working longer due to declining fluid intelligence. In an Issue Brief--"Cognitive Aging and Ability to Work"--by Anek Belbase and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, the authors note that :
  • key reasons are that declining fluid intelligence is often offset by accumulated knowledge, and reserve fluid capacity can act as a buffer against decline; and
  • only a minority of workers are vulnerable: those in jobs that require very high levels of fluid intelligence, and those who experience cognitive impairment.
Furthermore, "as people age, improvements in knowledge appear to largely offset declines in fluid intelligence, and the amount of fluid capacity that most workers have through their late 60s seems to offer a sufficient buffer against any declines."
However, some groups of older workers are vulnerable to cognitive decline. Workers in jobs that require a high degree of fluid intelligence (which can include those who end up shifting careers) or who experience a cognitive impairment are likely to have trouble extending their work lives.

As policymakers consider ways to encourage working longer, they may want to pay close attention to the potential impact of any proposed changes on such workers, as well as the effects on disability and unemployment programs that could see increased demand.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Brief IB#16-18 (November 2016)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ireland: Age Action Calls for Abolition of Mandatory Retirement Age

Age Action has issued a briefing paper and called for the abolition in Ireland of mandatory retirement clauses in that every year force workers out of their because of their age. Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “Mandatory retirement is simply age discrimination, forcing someone out of a job because they’ve reached some arbitrary age set by their employer."

The paper--"Mandatory Retirement: Age Action Briefing Paper No. 1"--sets out the legal and policy context for mandatory retirement clauses in Irish law and argues for their abolition. It explains that EU employment law forbids discrimination on the basis of age but a loophole allows Member States to treat workers differently if justified by a "legitimate aim." However, recent changes to the Irish pension system means that many victims of mandatory retirement clauses are not just losing their salaries, they’re losing out in State supports. As Justin Moran explained: “The Government raised the State Pension age from 65 to 66 and abolished the transition pension. This means a worker forced into retirement at the age of 65, the most common age chosen by employers, has no choice but to go on the dole for 12 months while waiting to receive their pension."
Justin Moran continued: “Courts have found that examples of a ‘legitimate aim’ can include forcing older workers onto the dole to make room for younger unemployed even though the evidence shows this does not lead to increased employment for younger people.

“Those countries with high rates of employment for older workers are also typically those with similar rates for young people.

“Government policy is to support longer working lives, to enable those who wish to work a little longer to do so, to value their contribution and their experience. But in practice, employers are permitted to get rid of older workers for no other reason than they turn 65."
Sources: Age Action Press Release (November 25, 2016); Irish Examiner "Age Action: End ‘ageist’ ban on working past 65" (November 25, 2016)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Report Calls for Workplace Innovation To Stem Early Retirements

Following a three year study--led by Nottingham Trent University with Workplace Innovation Limited (see WORKKAGE website)--aimed at preventing the loss of vital knowledge, skills and experience of increasingly aging workforces, an interim report recommends that measures be taken by employers to ensure older workers don’t become demotivated and head into early retirement. Specifically, in "Active working lives through workplace innovation practices" "WORKAGE aims to demonstrate that targeted workplace interventions to improve job design and work organization can facilitate enhanced engagement and retention of older workers and produce wider benefits for the organization and its employees."

Among other things, the report calls for innovate workplace practices:
  • The interplay between workplace practices and participative process is central for workplace innovation and its dual aim of promoting productivity and quality of working life;
  • WORKAGE developed interventions around four elements of innovative practices: jobs and teams; organizational structures, management and procedures; employee-driven improvement and innovation; and co-created leadership and employee voice;
  • the report's conceptual framework is that experienced quality of job and workplace practices will increase three critical states (work engagement, workability, and occupational outlook), which will, in turn, influence intentions to retire.
  • Especially important for improved work engagement and in turn retirement intentions are: (1) practices that are supportive of co-created leadership and employee voice, (2) practices that are supportive of quality jobs and teams, (3) higher job control, and (4) reduced physical job demands.
Source: Nottingham Trent University Press Release (November 28, 2016)

Hong Kong: Proposals Made to Scrap Public and Private Retirement Ages

According to a post in Time Out (Hong Kong), the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Ageing says the government and firms should scrap their retirement age for employees. According to the reporter, Rachel Lau:
Professor Chan Kar-choi, a lecturer at CUHK’s department of social work, who specialises in gerontology, tells us: “In terms of the society at large, I think Hong Kong’s productive force is dwindling because of this population change. In order to maintain enough people to engage in the labour force, it makes sense to expand the retirement age.”
Lau writes that although Hong Kong has no compulsory retirement age, the government recently increased the retirement age of new civil servants from 60 to 65, and that, in the private sector, the retirement age remains around 60.
Dr Mak Kin-wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Society for the Aged (Sage), agrees with this perspective and says that an ageing population working past the typical retirement age could be a triple win. “It’s a win for the employer, a win for the community and a win for the individual person. The elderly are probably more patient. They’re more experienced and more educated, so they’re actually good employees. In Hong Kong, especially, where our economy is not really based on hard labour and is instead based on knowledge, this group of people can certainly contribute and pass their experiences on to the next generation of workers.”

Source: Time Out "Put out to pasture: Should Hong Kong scrap its retirement age?" (November 23, 2016)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Zealand: Businesses Not Geared Up For Older Workers

New Zealand's Retirement Commissioner has issued a report finding that while the number of New Zealanders working past 65 is on the rise, most businesses are not geared up for them. According to the study--"Ageing workforce business survey, May 2016"--carried out as part of the Commissioner’s review of retirement income policies, 83% of the 500 companies questioned have no policies or strategies in place for workers aged over 50. Furthermore, "it doesn’t matter what sort of work they do: the results for those engaged in manual work, such as farming and forestry, were no different to those in manufacturing or the service sector."

Among other things, the survey found that:
  • 69% of the businesses agree that there’s a shortage of highly experienced workers in their industry;
  • 70% are concerned about losing skills and experience when older workers retire; and
  • 77% of companies do not carry out any active retirement planning to help their employees transition from full-time work.
Source: Commission for Financial Capability "Businesses ignore NZ's ageing workforce" (June 21, 2016)

Pew Research Finds More Older Americans Working Longer, and More

In an analysis of BLS data, the Pew Research Center has found that more Americans aged 65 and older are working than at any time since the turn of the century, and that they are spending more time on the job than did their peers in previous years. Thus, in May 2016, 18.8% of older Americans--nearly 9 million people--reported being employed full- or part-time, compared to May 2000, when just 12.8% of 65-and-older Americans--about 4 million people--said they were working.

With respect to the amount of time spent working, Pew Research Center reports that the percent of older Americans working part-time (fewer than 35 hours a week) fell from 46.1% in May 2000 to 36.1% in May 2016.
The share of both older men and older women who are working has grown over time, but working during what are commonly thought of as retirement years remains a largely male phenomenon: Although less than 45% of the total 65-and-older population are men, they represent more than 55% of older workers. Older Asians (20.2%) and whites (19%) are somewhat more likely to be working than older blacks (16.7%).
Source: Pew Research Center Fact Tank (June 20, 2016)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Slovenia Proposes to Raise Retirement Age to 67

According to an article by Marja Novak, Slovenia’s labor ministry proposed raising the retirement age to 67 from 59, in line with a suggestion from the International Monetary Fund. However, this was qualified later;
Prime Minister Miro Cerar told reporters later on Wednesday that government had not yet decided when it will prepare a new pension law and pointed out that a previous pension reform, enforced at the start of 2013, was still ongoing.

In line with the 2013 pension reform the retirement age will be gradually raised to 65 by 2019.

Source: Reuters "Slovenian ministry proposes retirement age increase to 67 from 59" (April 13, 2016)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Older Women Reshaping U.S. Job Market: Wall St. Journal

Writing in the Wall St. Journal, Nick Timiraos, follows up on the changing demographics of the U.S. workforce: "Since the start of the most recent recession in December 2007, the share of older working women has grown while the percentage of every other category of U.S. worker—by gender and age—has declined or is flat." In addition to providing some human interest angles, the article also points out:
The U.S. unemployment rate fell below 5% last month, a level not seen since early 2008. That drop, which happened faster than many economists had expected, should trigger employers to offer higher wages as they chase fewer potential hires. But the textbook case is muddled by the shifting demographics of the U.S. workforce.

Older men and women are leaving the workforce more slowly than in the past, suggesting a greater potential labor supply—and more slack—than an unemployment rate below 5% would typically imply. Such economic slack must be cinched—by finding jobs for discouraged younger workers, for example—before wages can rise more broadly.
Source: Wall St. Journal "How Older Women Are Reshaping U.S. Job Market" (February 23, 2016)