Monday, September 25, 2000

Experts Outline Ways to Boost Seniors’ Participation in a Global Workforce

Experts Outline Ways to Boost Seniors’ Participation in a Global Workforce
Community Development Publications
Aging News Alert
Senior Employment
By Pamela Appea

An international panel of analysts tell an aging conference in Washington technological training, recruitment of women, phased retirement, flextime workplaces and strong health insurance are key to recruiting senior citizens as workers.

The panelists predict in 20-30 years many countries won’t have enough employees to fill available jobs.

They offered this bleak outlook at a conference jointly sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development and the Center for Strategy and International Studies.

Seven of the world’s largest economies—the United States, Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan and Sweden—have significantly underestimated the growth of their aging populations, which may precipitate even greater social security crises than are forecast, researchers tell conferees.

In the United States, people are living longer and retiring earlier.

The average retirement age has dropped to 62 today from 65 in the late 1960s.

In 2030, nearly 1 in 4 adults in the developed nations will be age 65 or older.

Although seniors are needed to help ease the predicted employee shortage, many countries avoid hiring older workers or penalize those who want to re-enter the workforce by taking away pension benefits, the experts note. They urge these countries to raise the retirement age and actively recruit seniors, many of whom want to continue to work.

In Australia, says Veronica Sheen, deputy director of the Australian Council for the Aging, most companies discriminate against qualified senior workers.

They tend to make decisions about the hiring and firing of older workers more on the basis of stereotypical attitudes than on productivity measures, Sheen says.

Mie Teno, managing director of the Deltapoint International, a management consulting firm in Japan, says companies try to lower costs by hiring younger, temporary employees.

Job-seeking senior citizens typically have higher salary expectations and lower technological skills than younger workers, Teno says.

But experts from several nations say policies are changing, often to encourage flextime or temporary positions to allow phased retirements. Increased training, especially in technology, is also gaining ground.

But it is unclear how many countries, including the United States, will continue to provide pensions and other retirement benefits, especially for middle and lower-income seniors’ who are less likely to have personal savings.

In Germany and other European countries, policy experts say the time for generous government plans is coming to and end.

By 2030, it does not seem unrealistic that one employee will have to finance one retiree,” says Rolf Kroker, Director of the Economic and Social Policy Dept. at the Institute for German Economy.

Kroker says it makes sense to encourage middle-aged people to save money now for retirement.

Some conference participants point to complementary ways to address the projected job/worker shortage by increasing immigration quotas and finding ways to increase fertility rates in their countries.

Info: CSIS, 202/775-3242,; CED, 202/296-5960,

Originally published September 25, 2000