Work becoming the new retirement

Jul 14 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but work is becoming the new retirement, according to new U.S research.

A study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found that both white and blue collar employers are, by and large, now viewing older workers as equally if not more productive than younger workers and "more attractive" or "equally attractive" than younger workers.

This turnaround in attitudes is, of course, partly being fuelled by the ageing of the Baby Boomer generation and an increasing dearth of younger people within the workforce.

But the survey also cautioned that there is no connection between employer attitudes and actual personnel decisions.

Employers often examined less a person's age and more factors such as "trainability" and potential length of service.

Older workers, argued employers, generally had better knowledge of procedures and other job aspects and were better at interacting with customers. Older workers were in general also more productive than younger ones.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger workers had a big advantage when it came to employer's expectations of how long they would continue working.

Older workers were also generally seen as more expensive than their younger counterparts by four out 10 employers.

Older rank-and-file workers would find it tougher extending their careers than white-collar workers, the survey also suggested.

A total of 20 per cent of employers said older workers who used their brawn more than their brains at work were less productive than younger workers.

"Companies need to revise many of their existing policies and programs to create a work force that is both enticing and engaging for older workers," Tamara Erickson, president of consultancy firm The Concours Institute and co-author of the study, told the news agency MarketWatch.

At the same time, she argued, simple demographics will mean that employers will have no choice but to hire older workers.

"Our work points to the unavoidable conclusion that corporations will need older workers over the upcoming decade.

"There simply won't be enough people under our current views of 'retirement age' with the skills required by our businesses, particularly in the areas of science, engineering and math. Tapping individuals who are 65 and above, will be key.

"Pension policies may need to be rewritten, work arrangement made more flexible, new recruiting pipelines established, supplemental training programs added, and so on," she added.