The global aged workforce

Increasing life expectancy and other demographic changes affect labour market and it’s demographic. Longer life expectancy necessitates longer working lives in order for individuals to be able to afford retirement, but healthy life expectancy is not rising at the same rate. Globally, the proportion of people in the labour force aged 65 years and over has been steadily increasing not only due to the increase in retirement age but also the high cost of living and the need to reduce the impact of a large non-working population on the economy and welfare system.

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Given the demographic challenges confronting the nation, the need to encourage more older workers to stay in the labour force — and under better terms — is even more pressing today. The program should be pursued along with other policy steps so more people can keep working after they turn 60 in decent conditions in both the private and public sectors [1].

Many (but by no means all) older workers embrace the opportunity to delay retirement. For them, work provides identity, a sense of purpose, social networks and a structure to the day. Many others delay retirement simply because they cannot afford to do so. This is particularly the case with many older care workers, the vast majority of whom are women. Undersavings toward retirement, family changes like a divorce or widowhood or (in the case of the UK), acceleration of the rise in the State Pension Age, has led many women working in social care to retire at an age much later than they had expected Whether older people extend their working lives because they want or have to do so, the aim of employers should be the same: to structure work in a way which meets the older worker’s changing needs, is rewarding (not just in terms of pay but also the intrinsic benefits associated with work), and makes good use of their skills, motivations and knowledge. Expanding work opportunities for older workers isn’t just about letting them ‘carry on’ in the work they have been doing for years. It can also mean changing work routines or even jobs entirely so that work fits their needs and expectations.

There are three important benefits for working beyond the age of 65 which include increasing financial security, maintaining health, and continuing personal development. In many industries, older workers will be encouraged to stay on, especially in research fields where their extensive experience and knowledge is invaluable. In these industries in particular, it will be vital for organisations to take a proactive and preventative approach to keep their workforce healthy and happy.

Employers recognise that older employees bring more knowledge, wisdom and life experience to the workplace and that they are often more responsible, reliable and dependable. Furthermore, older workers are more valuable for mentoring and training —underscoring the value of inter-generational learning and teaching.

Read the agreement between European social partners on Active Ageing here

In Europe, ageing populations as well as skills shortages mean that the European Union and most of the national governments are looking for ways to support older workers in delaying retirement. However, it is not simply extended working life which is the aim of European institutions but quality work which is sustainable, secure and makes good use older people’s skills and experience.  Within an Active Ageing framework, work can help older people achieve financial security, maintain social networks and keep engaged in stimulating activities.

For more information on how employers and unions can work together to promote Active Ageing, see our ASPIRE training module which can be found here.

Many jobs don’t fit the definition of Active Ageing. Jobs which are physically demanding, precarious, poorly paid and isolating can have a negative impact on older employees health and well-being. This is why employers and unions across Europe are working together to redesign work to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.  Social care is a good example of where jobs could be designed to promote active ageing. While care work is often characterised as insecure and stressful, it can be organised in a way in which care workers can support one another in delivering higher quality care to their clients.

In Japan, their National Personnel Authority’s had proposed to extend the mandatory retirement age for national government workers to 65 from the current 60 in step with the government’s push to keep older workers in the labour market to make up for the accelerating manpower shortage as the nation’s population rapidly ages and declines and to help shore up the sustainability of social security programs. The move is also reportedly intended to prod more private sector companies as well as local governments to follow suit [2].

  1. Herbert M. G. (2010). Job Matching to Hire Motivated Employees.
  2. Extending the retirement age of civil servants (2018). The Japan Times. Available at