Responses to an Ageing Workforce: Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom

Andreas Cebulla 1  and David Wilkinson 2
  • 1 South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide, Australia
  • 2 Department of Social Science, University College London

Abstract

Background: An ageing workforce is a challenge for businesses that are increasingly expected to adapt workplaces to enable employees to remain in work longer. Emerging evidence highlights employer practices to attract or retain older workers. This paper explores employers’ motivations for introducing measures to accommodate an older workforce in three European case study countries. Objectives: The objective is to illustrate and understand different approaches to, and stages in, adjusting workplaces to accommodate an ageing workforce. Methods/Approach: The study combines case studies, including site visits and interviews, with expert consultations. Results: The research finds marked between-country differences, with United Kingdom case studies highlighting a strong emphasis on age-neutral practices shaped by legislation; age-confident practices in Germany resulting from collaborative arrangement between employers and trades unions (with legislation permissive towards age discrimination); business in Spain remaining relatively inactive, despite evidence of people expecting to work longer in life. Conclusions: Diverging employer motivations and responses to the challenge of an ageing workforce risk a multi-speed Europe in age-confident workplace innovation. A concerted effort that draws on the multiple factors that motivate initiative would be required to achieve good working conditions for older workers across Europe.

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