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CIPD issue new report on older workers

by on May 20, 2016

The CIPD have issued a fairly hefty (104 pages) report on older workers in five European countries, although thankfully a management summary is also available to download.

Here is our review, admittedly based largely on reading the executive summary:

  • perhaps unsurprisingly the language is one of optimization and productivity; the report therefore reflects the broader discourse of ‘successful’ ageing
  • older workers feature as an object of attention by organizations, as passive, to be made productive.
  • older workers are defined in contrast to ‘younger’ workers, different age categories appear (50 -plus, over 60), so who is the older worker and can we really treat ‘them’ all as a single generic group?  (It seems here that the CIPD suggest we might as well just say 50 is the divide, everyone below that is a younger worker and everyone over is an older worker.)
  • discrimination is recognized but age inclusivity is discussed only from the perspective of the (undefined) ‘older worker’ rather than seen as an all-ages issue.

The report provides a useful summary of some case studies in the countries studied and an overview of governmental policies but sadly falls short of really unpacking the issues in any depth.  Older workers are treated as a passive, homogeneous group.  There are some really glib sentences which I personally found quite patronizing – particularly the suggestion that at 50 I should be considered as ‘approaching retirement’ when my state pension age is really rather a long way off!  Sadly this overall tone made me less receptive to some of the useful issues discussed – such as older workers as carers – in the report.


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  1. Rachel Suff, Policy Adviser CIPD permalink

    Hi Katrina, thank you for your synopsis of the report we have just published. Just a few points – firstly the report makes the important point that ‘older workers’ [and we acknowledge there are issues with definition and terminology here] are definitely not a homogenous group – as page 15 states: ‘For employers wishing to develop a strategy to encourage the retention of older workers, it should be remembered that older workers are not a homogenous group.’ It strongly discourages organisations from treating older workers as a ‘single generic group’ and emphasises the importance of meeting the individual needs and aspirations of people in terms of whether they want to carry on working or retire. Far from viewing older workers as passive, the report also makes the point that creating more attractive work opportunities for people is about giving people choice in the latter stages of their careers. As the conclusion states: ‘Tailoring solutions to suit individual need and training managers: it is also important to remember that individuals’ circumstances and attitudes can vary considerably. This is why it is not possible to make assumptions about older workers – even if some people’s circumstances are similar, they could still have very different expectations about what they want from work in their later life.’

    A lot of attention is also paid to the importance of creating age-diverse and inclusive cultures for people of all ages – Again, as the conclusion states: ‘Building an inclusive and
    age-diverse culture: no amount of policies to support older workers will be effective unless the employer introduces them within the context of fostering an age-diverse culture that values
    all age groups….Therefore, employers need to think through how certain policies and programmes targeted at one age group will impact on the whole workforce, and what kind of practices will encourage a culture that celebrates diversity across all age groups.’

    • Many thanks for taking the time to read our blog and reply to my review of the executive summary of this report. We are pleased to hear that some of these issues are indeed addressed in the much longer full report.

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