Employers’ attitudes and actions towards the extension of working lives in Europe

Purpose. Although policy makers have put a lot of effort in the promotion of older workers’ labour force participation, quantitative empirical knowledge about employers’ views towards extension of working lives is limited. The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of employers’ attitudes and actions towards extension of working lives, by examining recruitment and retention behaviour towards older workers, employers’ views on consequences of an ageing workforce, organisational policies, and what governments can do to extend working lives.Design/methodology/approach. We analyse surveys administered to employers in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom in 2009.Findings. A minority of employers have applied measures to recruit or retain older workers and employers rather retain than hire older workers. A considerable share of employers, though in different degrees in different European countries, associate the ageing of their staff with a growing gap between labour costs and productivity. Employers expecting a larger gap do not apply more organisational measures to either increase productivity or adjust the cost-productivity balance. Employers may think the cost-productivity issue is partly an issue for governments to solve; employers expecting a larger cost-productivity gap consider wage subsidies to be an effective measure to extend working lives.Originality/value. The paper addresses the employers’ perspective; a perspective that is often neglected as compared to attitudes and behaviour of older workers themselves and research on institutional arrangements. Furthermore, the paper is among the first to report on employers’ policies and practices in a cross-national perspective.

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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