Europe’s ageing workforce: Untapped potential of skills and knowledge

With greater numbers of adults over 55, the resources needed for pension schemes are bound to increase and strain social budgets of many countries. One way to decrease this pressure, is to empower individuals to choose postponing retirement.

Many EU countries have already increased the state pension age to keep adults in the workforce for longer, which has led to almost a doubling of the workforce for those 55 and older. [1] This reality illustrates both great benefits for the economy and the workers themselves, but it also poses challenges for creating an inclusive society, where older adults can work and contribute with their skills.

Photo: by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

The benefits of postponing retirement

There are several reasons, why deciding to keep working even after reaching the pension age can be a good idea. The financial benefits that comes with receiving a salary is a key reason for many to stay at work, and in some European countries, this motivation is strengthened by the lack of a strong pension and retirement schemes. However, it is only a part of the overall picture. The data in the latest Eurostat report on older adults in Europe show a combination of reasons as to why older adults prefer to keep working after reaching pension age, and they often change depending on the amount of pension received and general socio-economic background of the individual

Firstly, there is a strong social aspect to be a part of a team in one’s workplace. Once retiring, important connections and relationships can have a tendency to fade away due to not being able to see people. This closely relates to maintaining a good mood and well-being. Therefore, choosing to work longer can be a key aspect to maintaining healthy relationships and connections with others, especially so, if one’s family is not close. This motivation has been particularly present in the choices of many Scandinavians according to the Eurostat report. [1]

Secondly, researchers argue that cognitive stimulus from work is one of the cornerstones in the fight against age-related conditions, such as dementia, the worsening of memory and more.[2] It is observed that after retirement, if people do not keep up with active cognitive stimulus, their well-being and capabilities can quickly deteriorate. Therefore, brain stimulation through work can be seen as an important element in retaining independence. [3]

Thirdly, employers themselves can also greatly benefit for keeping their experienced and skilled staff. Keeping older staff members can be particularly good, as often their motivation is not essentially purely financial, but rather the enjoyment of work, which in turn can increase the productivity and motivation to work. Added to this, keeping the older staff members in work is especially important for regions and countries, where the labour shortages are an everyday reality, particularly for professions and positions, where it is dominated by the skills and expertise gained by baby boomer generation [4]

What are the current barriers?

For a lot of people, it can be a good idea to continue working, especially in cases, where the individual wants it for their own social or financial benefits. However, there are still barriers to the continued access to the labour market, which remain unresolved.

Firstly, with increasing age, the question of physical accessibility and comfort of workplace becomes a crucial element in daily work life. Here, the role of infrastructure and design of the workspaces themselves are important, including technology and the way of working.

Secondly, with the great speed of changes in technologies, one of the issues in involving older adults in the workforce can also be due to a potential digital skill gap. Therefore, training and user-friendly technology is of great importance, especially for those, who might want to change their careers close to the pension age.

Thirdly, there is a need for a greater flexibility in the labour market to hire individuals only part-time. Not everybody has the need or desire to work full-time. However, part-time jobs are not always feasible. This is partly due to the presence of a growing overall number of workers as well. If adults are to stay longer in the labour market, there must be enough jobs, which also have to be aligned with the skills, abilities and knowledge of the workers.

Photo: by MEDIA PROFILE on Unsplash

How can we overcome the barriers to labour market?

AAL Programme works to address these barriers through the use of technology and facilitating innovations. A particularly important aspect is providing the opportunities to use what the latest technologies have to offer for those, who want, or can work at home, or others, who want to work at an office setting.  Therefore, we facilitate opportunities both for older adults become leaders in their enterprises, if they wish to do that, provide various opportunities for different kind of settings.

Do you want to be involved in facilitating the access to labour market for everybody despite their age? Do you have a product that can achieve that? Participate in the Smart Ageing Prize!

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