Training participation of older workers: supply and demand constraints

As the retirement age increases while at the same time technological and organisational changes affect the skills demanded in the market, it is crucial that older workers keep their skills up to date and that employers invest in the skills of their older employees. However, we observe a declining, but still significant training participation gap between older workers and their younger counterparts. In this paper, we analyse two stated choice experiments for workers’ and employers’ training choices. In the first choice experiment, workers are asked to choose between two training courses that differ in a number of characteristics. We show that older workers are less likely to choose a course that has to take place in their own time, a course that requires a personal financial contribution or a course that is directed to career orientation and coaching. Irrespective of the features of the course and compared to younger workers, older workers are less likely to actually take the course when this would be offered to them, which is suggestive of a lower willingness to train from the workers’ side. In the second choice experiment, employers are asked to allocate a training course with specific features to workers who differ, among other factors, in their age. We find that employers are less likely to assign training to a 60 year-old worker compared to
younger co-workers. This is indicative of a lower willingness to train older workers. However, in some cases, this age differential can be compensated with a positive evaluation of performance and/or motivation. Our findings suggest that both supply and demand factor are responsible for the age gap in training, and that employers positively select on the base of performance and motivation.

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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