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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