Confronting demographic change – the role of the older generation in the labour market

On September 24 - 25 2021 an international conference “Confronting demographic change – the role of the older generation in the labour market” was held in Vilnius / Lithuania. It was organised by the Education Centre of the Lithuanian Labour Federation (LDF) with the support of EZA and the European Union.

The seminar was attended by 50 participants representing workers’ organizations from Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Estonia, Portugal, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania. Unfortunately, due to strict restrictions for the indoor events and for entering Lithuania, part of international and native speakers give their speeches online.

Aims of the seminar:

•         To raise awareness of trade union members about the strategies of European Commission coping with demographical challenges;

•         To discuss the challenges older adults face in the labour market;

•         To analyse the possibilities to strengthen and expanding the skills of older workers;

•         To analyse the physical and psychological impact of COVID19 on older people;

•         To share the best practices of participants from different countries introducing their experiences.

The seminar covered the following topics in detail:

•         The pandemic’s impact on older people – working life perspective;

•         Is the labour market more open to older people? Older adults discrimination in the labour market;

•         EU Green Paper on Ageing: a key opportunity to take concrete steps towards a more inclusive future for all ages;

•         Guidelines for Improving the Employability Skills of Older People: Results of the Erasmus + Project 4E;

•         Pandemic challenges for older workers: the ability to adapt to new realities;

•         The role of employee representatives in encouraging educational sector employees to adapt to changes in the labour market, new challenges in professional and personal life;

•         Active Aging as a Precondition for Participation in the Labor Market;

•         Modern technology companies: will older workers be able to adapt to change?  Employers positions on motivation and empowerment of older generation;

•         Silver economy - will we be able to solve the problem of an ageing society in a comprehensive way.

The participants of the seminar provided the following key insights and principles for further work.

The proportion of older workers in employment is increasing throughout Europe. Retirement ages are being postponed in an effort to adapt to the new demographic distribution and older people are encouraged to actively participate in the labour market as long as possible.

Age-based stereotypes were commonplace already before the outbreak of the pandemic. Widespread beliefs suggesting that older workers aren’t tech-savvy may affect individual careers directly through discrimination and biased decision-making because older individuals are perceived as less job mobile, less trainable, and are less likely to be hired. Maybe even more importantly, ageist stereotypes may shape late careers indirectly, as they discourage mature workers from initiating learning and seeking career advancement. People of all ages tend to develop age-based stereotypes, yet, with age we increasingly internalize those ageist stereotypes, that is, begin self-stereotyping ourselves. Not surprisingly, internalizing negative age stereotypes leads to detrimental effects on older worker performance, career goals, motivation, and self-efficacy. However, as mature workers discount their capabilities of learning to work with new technologies, they avoid situations that could elicit negative age-based stereotypes, and, indeed, end up with lower digital skills and technological self-efficacy.    

Lifelong learning today is not only a people’s right but also a necessity that can help them to keep or change jobs, earn more, find and critically evaluate publicly shared information, communicate or help others.

Declining the numbers of younger employees’ older people could take a more productive role in the workplaces. Older people are more reliable, have all their time in their hands, and are more reliable and more devoted to their work. They can incorporate experiences with knowledge.  It is important to greater recognition of older people contribution to the economy, society as a whole.

It is necessary to increase efforts to improve older adults’ integration to the labour market. Social partners should promote a concept of solidarity between older and younger generations at the labour market; to promote financial initiatives for older people integration to labour market; to ensure collective agreements that are age neutral; to ensure adequate trainings and possibility of lifelong learning; promote healthy and safe working conditions, to initiate age management policies.