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Commentary from Davos on age at work issues

by on January 27, 2015

What news from last week’s World Economic Forum at Davos that might relate to age at work issues? Two items caught my eye.

The bigger picture related to inequality in its broadest sense when a study from charity Oxfam revealed that by next year 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%. Seeing this inequality as the root cause of economic stagnation has prompted calls, as here in The Guardian for ‘inclusive growth’. This article examines what it would mean to include everyone in global prosperity.  The author explains that for the European Commission, successful inclusive growth means “higher employment rates, with more and better jobs, especially for women, young people, older workers and legal migrants; investment in skills and training for people of all ages; and modernised labour markets and welfare systems“.

The EC has apparently set a target employment rate of 75% for those aged 20-64 by 2020. So it’s interesting to see that those at the ‘bookends’ of traditional working life (‘young people’, ‘older workers’ – though not chronologically defined) are both seen as requiring higher employment rates. Good to see reference to skills investment and training being essential for all ages.

Another theme to emerge relates to the trend away from ‘jobs for life’ and towards changing jobs and organizations many times over the course of the modern career. So-called ‘Millennials’ are predicted to have 15-20 jobs over their working lives. It’s reported here in The Financial Times that this issue was discussed at a Davos session on ‘how to develop a competitive and agile workforce’. Here it was argued that organizations “want the perfect person, made to order, ready for their position and ready to go”. This kind of ‘plug and play’ ability has in the past been marketed as something which older workers can contribute to companies, making them a safe pair of hands. But with new ways of working – and the article particularly focuses on future generations – it asks who the staff of the future will “belong” to and who will train the new generation of ‘plug and play’ workers?

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