Health and the older worker
An interesting post on ING’s new eZonomics blog points the reader to a new study on older workers and health. The findings — as reported in The Lancet — don’t at first glance look terribly surprising:
A poor work environment and health complaints before retirement were associated with a steeper yearly increase in the prevalence of suboptimum health while still in work, and a greater retirement-related improvement; however, people with a combination of high occupational grade, low demands, and high satisfaction at work showed no such retirement-related improvement.
In simple terms, this is saying that if a worker is happy, their health is better. Anyone who has ever had a bad job could have told them that! But the study, of course takes it further.
Working life for older workers needs to be redesigned to achieve higher labour-market participation.
This has broad implications, given the trend away from final salary pensions and the general view that workers are going to have to work longer than in previous generations. Companies that are faced with workers who cannot easily retire because of a lack of pension savings, that need people to work longer and that are subject to increasing anti-age discrimination will need to take the employment needs of older employees on board.
It may not be easy. As the ING post points out, the OECD looks at the issue in a 2006 report entitled “Live Longer, Work Longer”. It began its report:
In an era of rapid population ageing, many employment and social policies, practices and attitudes that discourage work at an older age have passed their sell-by date and need to be overhauled. They not only deny older workers choice about when and how to retire but are costly for business, the economy and society.
Then comes the recommendations:
— There must be strong financial incentives to carry on working and existing, subsidised pathways to early retirement have to be eliminated.
— Wage-setting and employment practices must be adapted to ensure that employers have stronger incentives to hire and retain older workers.
— Older workers must be given appropriate help and encouragement to improve their employability.
— A major shift in attitudes to working at an older age will be required on the part of both employers and older workers themselves
Is any of this being done?