EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Press release, 30 January 2008

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Diverse approaches to older workers across Europe

Few companies are actively responding to demographic change, despite the fact that the ageing labour force debate has increasingly moved up the European policy agenda. This is according to research from Eurofound, the EU agency based in Dublin, Ireland. Although age management policies in companies have become more common, there is a wide diversity of approaches and developing and implementing good practice tends to be triggered by the direct business needs of companies, rather than by pressure from public policy or age-awareness campaigns.

For example, flexible working practices are key to age management strategies in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, while the Nordic countries tend to focus on improving employees’ health and well-being. Companies in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Spain, for their part, focus more on training and development.

‘Organisations are more likely to be successful when they clearly communicate the purpose of their age management strategy and establish a comprehensive policy framework that involves all parties,’ says Robert Anderson, Head of Unit of Eurofound’s ‘Living Conditions and Quality of Life’ research team. ‘Managers often identify value for money and its impact, but in fact there are few systematic evaluations of company initiatives.’

The demographic challenges facing Europe intensify the need for debate on the employment and working conditions of workers as they age. Working conditions tend to vary considerably across age groups: the effect of age on physical abilities is neither uniform nor systematic. In studies that have examined the relationship between work performance and age, no clear-cut association has been found and the results vary considerably. However, it is clear that if workers are to remain in employment for longer, working conditions need to be improved – a strategy that, apart from contributing to increasing the employment rates of older people, will benefit workers of all ages. Measures taken at company level to address this issue often combine an ergonomic review of the job, an evaluation of individual abilities and an assessment of the demands of a job, with a view to eliminating tasks that cannot be carried out by workers with reduced physical capacity. Other approaches include physical training, medical monitoring and promotion of healthy, active lifestyles.

During the course of 2008, Eurofound will highlight its work on active ageing and flexible solutions in the workplace. Arguing that older workers are key to sustainable development in the EU, Eurofound contends that companies will increasingly have to rely on the experience and skills of older workers. Eurofound has an extensive range of reports and databases that support the policy and practice of active ageing policies. These include maintaining and promoting health and work ability as employees age, developing skills and continued employability of older workers, and offering suitable working conditions and employment opportunities.

The Foundation’s work on ageing is available online at www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/populationandsociety/activeageing.htm

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, on telephone +353-1-204 3124, mobile +353-876-593 507, or email mma@eurofound.europa.eu

NOTE TO THE EDITOR
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
Eurofound is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policymaking with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No. 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.
More news and information from Eurofound is available on: www.eurofound.europa.eu
To register for regular information from Eurofound visit: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/press/subscription.htm

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