Older employees feel abandoned by ‘their’ employers

Older employees across Europe feel let down. In the European Union, but more specifically in The Netherlands, employers associate the aging of society foremost with higher labour costs (+75% of the employers), stagnating or decreasing productivity and poor profitability. And yet, for these employers aging is mainly a national problem and not a challenge to their own organization.

Higher birth rates

European employers do hardly take care of their older employees and as far as they do something, they employ so-called ‘care-measures’: less hours and more days off. Actually these types of measures are only administered in The Netherlands. Most employers in Europe seldomly ask older employees to continue to work after they have reached their pension-age. These employers don’t worry about the necessity to prolong the working life of older employees. They assume to have enough alternatives if they have a shortage of employees. They can turn parttime into fulltime work, open the countries borders and raise the birth rate (for these measures there is less enthousiasm in The Netherlands). Employers in the European Union prefer younger employees. Although older workers outperform the younger ones if it comes to ‘soft’ and less quantifiable characteristics of work (loyalty, reliability, management), only the ‘hard’ productive employee values count (physical health, technological skills, creativity). This image of employee values is identical for most employers in European countries.

Flexibility has vanished

Since older employees are hardly of any value to employers, it’s no surprise they feel let down. To a certain degree and some surprise Dutch employers appear to be the exception. Employers, as well as employees, prefer a more gradual and flexible end of the career. For instance, by combining work and pension. Due to the repeal of different senior-, parttime, early retirement and pre-pension settlements, the possibilites for a flexible retirement process in most European countries have been reduced drastically. The immediate effect of these steps is the increase of the average retirement age. In The Netherlands, against the wishes of employees and employers, flexibility at the end of the working life has come to an end.

Older employees are tired

Anyway, for The Netherlands must be concluded that older employees are tolerated. At the same time, there appears to be an incomprehensible discrepancy between the demand of employers and employees for a flexible pension and at the same time the social regime that goes with it, such as the rigid state pension age. In research we conducted, older employees often told they were tired of their work. This never implied there actual labor activities. They are tired of bureaucracy, the eternal whining of organization changes which in the end always fail and the lack of genuine concern for the fact that at the end of their career they have to give up their career and craftmanship. Most older employees feel abandoned by ‘their’ employers.

Sources (only in Dutch):

Breij, B. & Oosterhout, T. van (2016). Met pensioen. Wat houdt mij tegen? Leiden: ILC Nederland (voorheen ILC Zorg voor Later).

Dalen, H. van, Henkens, K., Conen, W., & Schippers, J. (2012). Dilemma’s rond langer doorwerken. Europese werkgevers aan het woord. Den Haag: NIDI.

Oosterhout, T. van & Breij, B. (2013). Een langer arbeidsleven? Drijfveren voor al of niet doorwerken. Leiden: ILC Nederland (voorheen ILC Zog voor Later).

Oosterhout, T. van & Breij, B. (2014a). Een langer arbeidsleven? Dat maken we zelf wel uit! In Bronner, A.E., Dekker, P., Leeuw, E. de, Paas, L.J., Ruyter, K. de, Smidts, A. & Wieringa, J.E. (red.), Ontwikkelingen in het marktonderzoek: Jaarboek MarktOnderzoekAssociatie, dl. 39 (pp. 189-199). Haarlem: SpaarenHout. [For those interested an English translation is available.]

Oosterhout, T. van & Breij, B. (2014b). Perspectieven op een langer arbeidsleven. Leiden: ILC Nederland (voorheen ILC Zorg voor Later).

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