Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden are participating in a new EU project that will determine how organisations and businesses can best use the skills and experiences of older professionals. The Best Agers project, funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund, will specifically use the competences of these older professionals to foster business and skills development in the Baltic Sea region. The initiative has received more than EUR 4.5 million in funding.
The European Commission says that one of the biggest challenges facing European regions is the change in demographics. Experts believe that professionals aged 55 and over (also defined as older professionals by the Best Agers project partners) could be the ace up the Baltic Sea region's sleeve.
Past studies have shown that the Baltic Sea region will contend with a rapidly growing older population in the coming years. A report released by the European Commission in 2008 predicted that the average ratio of the older population among EU Member States will increase some 13% to 30% by 2060. The reason: a continuing low fertility rate and a growing number of older people. The data also showed that the average proportion of the population over 80 in EU countries will jump almost 8% to 12.1% within the next 50 years.
Older yet extremely healthy and highly educated, these people can be mobilised to offset the negative effects of demographic change: brain drain and dwindling regional workforces, experts say.
'A high level of welfare in a society requires a certain ratio between the number of citizens who work and those who don't,' explained Professor Roland Kadefors from the Department of Work Science at the University of Gothenburg.
The Best Agers partners kicked off the project in the Latvian capital of Riga in February this year. Their aim is to identify and promote methods to ensure that older workers maintain their contribution in the workforce.
The project partners will also identify examples of how the experiences and skills of these older professionals can be transferred to the younger workforce.
Part of the 'Baltic Sea Region Programme', the Best Agers project brings together 19 partners from 8 Baltic Sea nations and from various sectors to establish a cross-generational innovation environment. The partners will collaborate with a number of age groups in the fields of business and skills to not only foster new ideas, but to exchange their knowledge and experiences.
'The EU labour market strategy indicates both that the ratio between the number of people who work and those who don't work must increase, and that those who work must remain working for a longer time than today,' Professor Kadefors said.
The university's Department of Work Science is responsible for the research projects of Best Agers. According to the team, they will assess each one of the eight countries and identify the factors that make it harder for people over 55 to remain in or return to the workforce. Professor Kadefors said, 'It might be a matter of laws and regulations, health, competence or attitudes.'
The partners note that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are vulnerable to key skills and experiences being lost when older professionals leave the labour force. One of the biggest problems, they say, is that there are not enough methods for businesses to identify critical competence and transfer it to younger generations.