Older workers getting “younger”?

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Age is just a number, but is that number getting smaller? Despite increasing concerns about the aging population and imminent Baby Boomer retirement, two Canadian researchers say the population is getting “younger”.

Grandfather/grandson team Marcel and Sébastien Boyer looked at life expectancy in 1950, when many workplace norms including retirement at 65 were established, and found that compared to that decade, workers are getting younger.

In 1950 a 35-year-old Canadian had a remaining life expectancy of 38.6 years, but by 2010 they could expect to live another 46.8 years – a difference of 8.2 years.

Because many older Canadians are already deciding to retire later than the arbitrary age of 65, public policy should aim to provide Canadians with the instruments to better manage retirement decisions.

The number of retirees per active worker is steadily climbing.

At age 65, a Canadian’s life expectancy matches that of a 59-year-old in 1950 and their health is also better. No wonder employment rates for those aged 65-69 have almost doubled from 13% in 2000 to 23% in 2011.

The researchers suggest “age” can be measured as years left to live rather than years since birth, and would like to see public policies reformulated and redesigned to encourage adaptation, flexibility and innovation among older workers.

Some firms hesitate to hire people who are 55 or older because they expect they will take some time to learn the role, and then will quit by 65. However, if employers expected them to work until 72 or 75 it makes more sense to invest in older workers people.

“In terms of human resource management, keeping a productive workforce by investing in the workforce is more profitable if people are expected to work until 75 than if they are leaving by 65,” Marcel Boyer told HRM. “But for that we have to change the frame of mind of individuals, human resources managers and governments.”

It won’t be easy. The idea of retiring at 65 is well engrained, but the patterns are changing already. One issue suggested by the researchers is that by 65 many people are bored by their industry. After 40 or more years doing the same thing they are ready to move on. Boyer’s research found that many over-50s wanted to change careers, with advocacy, teaching and healthcare topping lists of preferred second careers.

“We have to insist on the idea that lifelong learning and training,” Boyer said. “If you are 45 or 50 and are learning new skills or upgrading skills you are going to use those skills in a productive way for a longer period of time in the future. It makes the investment worthwhile for people, businesses and the government.”

Read the full e-brief online at: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/e-brief_161.pdf

  • Diane J. on 2013-08-23 8:46:49 AM

    Discrimination against older workers is a very elusive demon to address - although a protected ground, I often hear managers say they need to recruit younger workers because most of their existing workforce is eligible to take early retirement - even though they have not given any indication of doing so. Workforce planning exercises blatantly put in place plans and initiatives that discriminate against over 50's. We would never think (or at least not dare say anything) about excluding women of child bearing age from succession planning. I wonder if we will eventually see a Federal equity initiative to encourage employment of older workers?

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