EWCS 2005 - Ageing workforce

Working conditions of an ageing workforce

In the context of the ageing workforce in Europe, extending the working life is an explicit target of the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. The employment guidelines 2005–2008, a key component of the Lisbon strategy, set out the policy framework on ageing as an integral part of a lifecycle approach to work.

Eurofound has carried out an in-depth analysis of the fourth European Working Conditions Survey (2005) data with a special focus on age and working conditions in the EU27. The analysis examines the main factors that may influence the choice of older workers to leave their jobs. The report explores four key areas which are significant in shaping the age structure of the workforce: career and employment security; health and well-being of workers; development of skills and competencies; and work-life balance.

Key research findings

  • Workers aged over 55 have a high level of job autonomy and comparatively low levels of work intensity.
  • There is a trend towards a reduction in exposure to physical risks with increasing age. However, workers aged 45–55 report higher exposure to risks associated with physical position, repetitive movements and heavy workloads.
  • Older workers receive less training and have more limited access to ‘new’ technologies than younger workers.
  • Older workers have a lower degree of involvement in High Performance Work Organisations (HPWOs) - organisations with horizontal management structures, task rotation, team work and active involvement in decision-making processes.

One conclusion is that the improvement of working conditions is crucial to ensure better job sustainability over the lifecycle and prevent early exit from the labour market. There is also a clear need to monitor the level of exposure to physical risks of workers in the 45 to 54 years category, as well as that of younger workers to assess the risk of future deterioration of work capacity.