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Older Workers in an Ageing Society

Older Workers in an Ageing Society

Critical Topics in Research and Policy

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Philip Taylor

Prolonging working lives is high on the agenda of policy makers in most of the world’s major industrialized nations. This book explains how they are keen to tackle issues associated with the ageing of populations, namely the funding of pension systems and predictions concerning a dwindling labour supply. Yet the recent history of older workers has primarily been one of premature exit from the labour force in the form of redundancy or early retirement. Add to this a previously plentiful supply of younger labour and it is clear that much of industry will be unprepared for the challenges of ageing workforces.

Chapter 9: Redesign of workplaces for an ageing society

Juhani Ilmarinen

Subjects: social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, labour policy


In most industrialized countries the workforce is being asked to work longer. This is for several reasons. Improving life expectancy raises the question of how to cover the costs of pension and healthcare systems. Working careers, which are ending in many countries close to 60 years of age, do not provide a sustainable financial base for the increasing needs of services. Can we afford to grow older? The wealth of our ageing societies will come through higher rates of labour force participation among older people. The employment rates of older workers (55–64 years) were highest in Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Japan, where about 68–86 per cent of the oldest age group participated in the labour market in 2007 (OECD, 2007). In the European Union, large differences exist in participation rates of older workers between the member states: Sweden showing the highest (73.0 per cent) and Poland one of the lowest (31.8 per cent) rates in 2007.

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