Training opportunities for older workers

A quantitative survey on older workers, conducted by the Austrian Chamber of Labour, differentiates between blue-collar and white-collar workers. The survey findings reveal that there are considerable differences in terms of access to and satisfaction with training between these two groups of older employees.

About the study

The Austrian Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer Österreich) carried out a quantitative study on older workers, focusing on their access to and satisfaction with training, among other issues. The survey involved more than 600 employees over the age of 45 years, who are employed in six different companies and sectors. In three of these sectors (wholesale and retail sales, construction industry, healthcare), both blue-collar and white-collar employees were interviewed according to a set questionnaire. In the electronic and electrical engineering industry and in the pharmaceutical industry only white-collar workers were interviewed while only blue-collar employees were interviewed in the vehicle construction sector. The questionnaire not only focused on the situation regarding the workers’ current place of employment but also on their job history.

Access to training

The study reveals that it is much more common for white-collar workers to take part in training than it is for blue-collar workers. In general, around 80% of white-collar workers received training within the last five years. In the pharmaceutical industry, the figure for white-collar workers who received some form of training during this period of time is as high as 88%. In contrast, only 17% of blue-collar workers in the construction industry and 16% in the healthcare sector received training within the last five years. Access to training seems to be much better for blue-collar workers who are employed in vehicle construction, as nearly 60% of these workers took part in training.

Table 1: Training of older workers, 2006 (%)
Sector/industry Training within last five years Training for younger employees only
Blue-collar workers
Construction industry 17 45
Vehicle construction 59 48
Healthcare sector 16 40
White-collar workers
Construction industry 81 22
Pharmaceutical industry 88 13
Engineering industry 76 39
Healthcare sector 83 9

Source: Schönbauer, Vienna, 2006

At the same time, a significant proportion of older workers state that their current company offers the possibility for training only to younger workers. In this respect, there is also a difference between blue-collar and white-collar workers. Between 40% and 48% of blue-collar workers consider that only their younger colleagues participate in training, whereas only 9% to 22% of white-collar workers who are employed in the healthcare sector, construction industry or pharmaceutical industry agree with this statement. Interestingly, 39% of white-collar workers in the electronic and electrical engineering industry state that only younger workers receive training in their company. This latter proportion is nearly as high as that of blue-collar workers in the healthcare sector (40%) who agree with this statement.

Moreover, a considerable proportion of white-collar workers claim that older employees can enhance their professional skills within their current company. Some 67% of older white-collar workers in the construction industry and in the pharmaceutical industry share this view. In addition, 57% of interviewees in the healthcare sector and only 43% of workers in electronic and electrical engineering are of the opinion that older workers can further develop their professional skills at their current workplace.

Satisfaction with training

The results presented show the level of satisfaction of older workers with training. Between 59% and 83% of white-collar workers are satisfied or very satisfied with training opportunities at their place of work. These numbers are much lower for blue-collar workers who are employed in the healthcare sector or in the construction industry, with only 36% and 39% respectively of such workers being satisfied or very satisfied with training opportunities.

Table 2: Satisfaction with training, 2006 (%)
Sector Satisfied or very satisfied
Blue-collar workers
Construction industry 39
Vehicle construction 59
Healthcare sector 36
White-collar workers
Construction industry 83
Pharmaceutical industry 75
Engineering industry 59
Healthcare sector 65

Source: Schönbauer, Vienna, 2006

Blue-collar workers who work in vehicle construction (59%) are more satisfied with training than their colleagues in the construction industry or healthcare sector. The higher levels of satisfaction among these workers can be attributed to the fact that the proportion of older employees who are very satisfied with training corresponds to the proportion of older workers who participated in training during the last five years. Thus, there seems to be a positive correlation between participation in training and satisfaction with training.


Schönbauer, U., Ältere im Betrieb (in German, 670Kb PDF) [Older workers in companies], Vienna, February 2006.

Marion Vogt, Working Life Research Centre (Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt, FORBA)

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