Health and the older worker

November 19, 2009

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?


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It will depend on the stage of economy and health condition of the older workers.At a time when young and able-bodied persons are out of job, which employers want to take on the task of job-redesigning to accommodate older workers?At the rate that the population is falling prey to stroke, cancer, diabetes etc at a younger age. I doubt many people can work until retirement age, much less to continue working after retirement age.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive

This so called “retirement age” is merely a government trick to keep people working as long as they can and then have them die as soon as they can after retirement. People retire when they have enough money; simple. Look around at the labor market and it will soon manifest the fact that most younger workers under the age of about 35 have no work ethic and are completely worthless for the most part in getting anything accomplished. Calling in sick, job hopping, goofing off, etc. are brilliant maneuvers that go undetected for the most part. Hiring older workers will ensure that the mission get accomplished with the least amount of drama.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Consider the fact that corporations are considered citizens under US law. They have deep pockets and legislators listen to people with deep pockets.Our educational systems are tied to corporate interests which is why arts and humanities have been all but stripped from educational circles while the sciences and mathematics take top priority.Retirement costs money. If a worker can keep on working into old age then the likelihood of paying out very much before the retiree dies is much less.Want to keep workers happy? It can be done by making sure they have a safety net. In the Netherlands a person who looses their job can remain on unemployment as long as they are going to school or looking for work. They don’t have to worry about loosing their homes or going without food or health care.With that kind of stress off of the shoulders of American workers it would be easy for them to stay happy and healthy, and thus much more productive. Because they would be at work by choice. And not because they need the money.This article looks at ways to maximize the millage an employer can get out of a worker while investing as little as possible in them. If our courts would do the right thing and remove citizen status from corporate America, then the most important constituents to the legislature would once again be the American citizen and not some amorphous facsimile of a “person” with no individual identity.This article shows how it’s in the interests of business to do better by the employee. But it doesn’t address these problems from the point of the citizen. In other words it doesn’t focus on making sure that citizens have more freedom to choose their occupations by making education more easily accessible. And by providing a financial safety net that does not force them into jobs where they would be the least productive.Even the mightiest trees still get their water from the roots. The citizen is the root of the economy. Our workers are best served when our government prioritizes investment in the individual citizen over investment in corporations.We need a REAL social safety net. But all we get is lip service and taxes, which go to keeping “the economy” alive at the expense of the citizens that support it.

Posted by Benny Acosta | Report as abusive