Study proposes programme to help keep elderly in work
One of the biggest challenges facing Europeans is how the number of people able to provide for the ageing population is shrinking. A new study led by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden shows how the situation is further exacerbated by the fact that 25% of managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expect to retire by 2016, resulting in the closure of a company in 1 in 10 cases. The findings, which provide insight into what measures must be implemented to help retain the elderly in the labour market, are an outcome of the BEST AGERS project, supported under the EU's Baltic Sea Region Programme to the tune of EUR 4.4 million.
The research team performed demographic studies of the Västra Götaland Region and Norrbotten in Sweden. These analysis help them make projections of outward migration and future age structures.
'Larger cities ... cope well in the longer term,' explains Dr Roland Kadefors from the Department of Work Science at the University of Gothenburg. 'But large parts of the countryside, including in Västra Götaland Region, are affected by low birth rates and outward migration. It will be difficult to maintain community services in those areas.'
SMEs are firms with less than 250 employees, representing a sizeable portion of the labour market in the small Swedish municipalities. The researchers say Sweden has one of the oldest sets of managers in local SMEs, for historical and political reasons. Experts predict 25% of SME owners will retire in the next 5 years, and 40% in the next decade. The figure represents 55 000 to 60 000 companies, and it increases to 175 000 companies if sole traders are included. The findings indicate that the risk of closure is around 10%, or 700 000 jobs as represented by these firms.
'Generational changes are critical times for small businesses,' says Dr Kadefors. 'Either a family member or an employee takes over, or the company is sold to an outsider, and that can either go well or go badly. The alternative is to close down the business.'
The BEST AGERS project, which brought together researchers from 8 countries, pinpointed the challenges people aged 55 and over face in their individual labour markets.
Conducting interviews with workers, employees and representatives of authorities, the researchers devised a 17-point programme that outlines measures at various levels: employee, employer and society.
Dr Kadefors goes on to say that from a social level, it is important for people to be pioneers: 'It is important for older people to be involved in the parliamentary work and in other visible public activity. Unfortunately the trend is moving in the wrong direction in the Swedish Parliament, with fewer people over the age of 65 in the present parliament than in the previous one.'
Some of the factors employees must take into account to ensure they keep working include benefitting from competence development programmes, establishing a good relationship with supervisors, developing a curriculum vitae that reflects their range of knowledge and engaging in physical training when they have free time.
The BEST AGERS partners are from Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.