Section 3: The global aged workforce

Section 3:
The global aged workforce

Increasing life expectancy and other demographic changes directly affect the labour market and its demographic.

Longer life expectancy requires people to work for longer in order to be able to afford retirement. However 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. This due to:

  • The increase in retirement age
  • The high cost of living
  • The need to reduce the impact of a large non-working population on the economy and welfare system

Many (but not all) older workers embrace the opportunity to delay retirement. The benefits of continuing to work are:

  • A sense identity
  • A sense of purpose
  • Access to social networks
  • A structure to the day.

Want to find ways to better manage age in work? Read our good practice guide for employers here

The implications of a longer working life for care workers. Many delay retiring 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.

Under-saving toward retirement, family changes like a divorce or widowhood or (in the case of the UK), rises in the State Pension Age, have led many women working in social care to retire at an age much later than they had expected.

Whether older people working in care extend their working lives because they want or have to do so, all employers should structure work in ways which:

  • Meet the older worker’s changing needs
  • Are rewarding (not just in terms of pay but also the intrinsic benefits associated with work)
  • Make good use of their skills, motivations and knowledge.

The benefits of working beyond 65

There are three important benefits for employees to continue working beyond the age of 65. These are:

  • Increasing financial security
  • Maintaining health
  • Continuing personal development

There are benefits for the employers too.

  • In many industries, older workers are encouraged to stay on, especially in research fields where their extensive experience and knowledge is invaluable. In these industries in particular, organisations must 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. They are also often more responsible, reliable and dependable.
  • Older workers are also more valuable for mentoring and training —underscoring the value of inter-generational learning and teaching.
[VIDEO: With Age Platform]
Case study: Europe
In Europe, ageing populations and skills shortages mean that the European Union and many national governments are looking for ways to support older workers in delaying retirement.

Extending working life isn’t the only the aim of these European institutions. They also want to promote quality work, which is sustainable, secure and makes good use of 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.


A second learning module is available to help managers and union representatives discuss adaptations to the workplace to prepare for ageing workforces. Find out more here


Read the agreement between European social partners on Active Ageing here

Potential challenges to Active Ageing, and opportunities for social care 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. Employers and unions across Europe are now 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 so that care workers can support one another in delivering higher quality care to their clients.

To find out how employers and unions can work together to promote Active Ageing, see our ASPIRE training module which can be found here

Case study: Japan
In Japan, the National Personnel Authority proposed extending the mandatory retirement age for national government workers from 60 to 65, in step with the government’s push to keep older workers in the labour market.

The aim was to make up for the accelerating manpower shortage as the nation’s population rapidly ages and declines, and to help keep social security programs sustainable. The move is also reportedly intended to encourage more private sector companies and local governments to follow suit [2].

Question: What do you think that older workers bring to your workplace? What more is your employer doing to encourage older workers to stay on, or join

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.

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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