Changes in Employers’ ways of dealing with older workers, 2009–2017

Studies suggest that organizations across countries are more likely to send older staff members to early retirement than retain them, but there are signals that employers are increasingly showing support for longer working lives. However, a large-scale, longitudinal perspective on how organizations have reacted to demographic challenges is missing in the literature. In this study we fill this gap and ask how organizations approach older workers, how these approaches change over time, and in which sectors of the economy and in what types of organizations the changes were most profound. Data come from two large-scale employer surveys: 2009 (n=1,077) and 2017 (n=1,358) representative for the Netherlands. We use a three-step group-comparison latent class analysis (LCA) combined with multinomial logistic model.

We distinguish four clusters of organizations based on their practices regarding older workers—those trying to activate and develop their employees (active), focusing on exit measures (exit), implementing all age management practices (all), and practicing no age management (none). We demonstrate a major shift in employers’ approaches to aging workforces between 2009 and 2017, with strong decreases in those that offered no age management (47% to 30%) and those focusing on exit measures (21% to 6%), and an increase in active organizations (19% to 52%). That active measures are no longer concentrated in large and developing organizations, but have become standard HR resources tools economy-wide. The greatest increase in active approaches occurred among small entities and knowledge-intensive organizations. By using LCA, we are able to analyse organisations without any specific policies toward older workers, which has not appeared in extant studies. We discuss reasons of the proactive shift in The Netherlands and argue that similar progress in other countries may be expected.

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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