Training participation of older employees lags behind- Lack of motivation or age discrimination?

Older employees are looking forward to an increasingly longer career. Investing in lifelong learning is in their own interest and that of their employers. Training participation of Dutch employees, however, decreases with increasing age. This is partly due to the declining motivation of older employees. But companies also usually invest less in employees from 45 years. Age discrimination may play a role: employers expect less results from older employees and see a slower return on their investment.

This is apparent from a Netspar analysis in which the researchers provide insight into the extent to which employers and older employees are willing to invest in human capital.

A stable working environment that focuses on a long working relationship and sustainable development, contributes positively to training participation. Older employees are more motivated to follow training if they can also use the acquired skills in their private situation. It also helps if there is autonomy in subject choice and training can be followed during working hours. In order to optimally deploy the training budget, employers would therefore do well to differentiate more in their training policy between older and younger employees. Finally, it is important that older employees also see that following a course contributes to the development of their career, for example by adjusting career profiles.

Making the labor market more flexible and breaking down protection for older employees removes part of the incentive for employers to continue investing in their older employees. A possible solution is to give people more control over their own career and to enable them to adapt to the changing labor market. For example, by providing an individual budget (learning account) for general training and development, as stated in the coalition agreement. The researchers argue that policy choices should take into account the fact that continuing training is generally more effective than retraining later in life.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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