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An Aging Workforce

I want to share some striking highlights from the 4th Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE): An Ageing Workforce: 

  • As a result of rising life expectancy and declining birth rates, the natural growth of the labour force will not be able to make up for the number of expected retirees, which creates a need to keep older workers in the labour force.
  • Globally, in 2017, there were 3.5 persons aged 65 and over for every 10 persons in the labour force, a figure estimated to rise to five by 2030 (ILO, 2018d). The challenges will be strongest in regions of Europe, Northern America and Eastern Asia.
  • The changing demographic raises concerns about competencies within an ageing workforce. Findings from PIAAC partly support these concerns. The data show major differences in literacy proficiency across age groups, with adults aged 55 to 65 scoring some 30 points fewer than adults aged 25 to 34 (Paccagnella, 2016).
  • Despite lower literacy proficiency, older workers seem to be as productive as their younger counterparts.
  • While older workers may have been able to compensate for lower proficiency in information processing skills, changing production processes put a premium on the ability to learn (OECD and ILO, 2018) and may make it more challenging.
  • As a consequence of the increased demands on the future workforce, an existing bias against older workers could be reinforced.

On the other hand, there are some positive trends within the EU sphere.

  • Using three AES surveys, 2007, 2011 and 2016, it can be inferred that the increase in participation by older workers (55–64) far surpassed the average increase. The EU average rate for non-formal job-related ALE in the 25–64 age span rose by 37%, but in the 55–64-year-old group, the increase was as high as 71%. These differences are almost exclusively a consequence of better access to employersupported ALE, especially for older workers.
  • These positive developments in all countries should not obscure the fact that the actual participation rates in job-related ALE in many EU countries remain at a low level.

All these developments point to the importance of ALE for an ageing workforce both within and outside the workplace.

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