Ageing and work

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The Fourth European Working Conditions Survey (2005) highlights specific problems encountered by ageing workers in the workplace. For example, older workers receive least training of all, which indicates a deficit in progress towards life-long learning initiatives. In order to have a more employable and adaptable workforce, and in turn to increase employment and participation rates, skills development and access to training especially for older workers, need to be further encouraged.

Secondary analysis of the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey data ('Working conditions of an ageing workforce') provides a valuable insight into age and working conditions in the EU27 and examines the main factors that may influence the choice of older workers to exit the labour market. 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.