Companies in the rich world are confronted with a rapidly ageing
workforce. Nearly one in three American workers will be over 50 by 2012,
and America is a young country compared with Japan and Germany. China
is also ageing rapidly, thanks to its one-child policy. This means that
companies will have to learn how to manage older workers better.
companies are remarkably ill-prepared. There was a flicker of interest
in the problem a few years ago but it was snuffed out by the recession.
The management literature on older workers is a mere molehill compared
with the mountain devoted to recruiting and retaining the young.
are still stuck with an antiquated model for dealing with ageing, which
assumes that people should get pay rises and promotions on the basis of
age. They have dealt with the burdens of this model by periodically
"downsizing" older workers or encouraging them to take early retirement.
This has created a dual labour market for older workers, of cosseted
insiders on the one hand and unemployed or retired outsiders on the
But this model cannot last. The number of young people,
particularly those with valuable science and engineering skills, is
shrinking. And governments are raising retirement ages and making it
more difficult for companies to shed older workers, in a desperate
attempt to cope with their underfunded pension systems.
Feb 4th 2010 | From The Economist print edition [adapted]
The text suggests that the governments of industrialized countries are
a) trying to stop companies dismissing older members of their workforce.
b) refusing to employ younger workers because of their expensive pensions.
c) cutting the retirement pensions of valuable workers on the basis of age.
d) making desperate attempts to cope with an inefficient labour market.
e) regretting their generosity to workers who have taken early retirement.