The aging of the workforce threatens the sustainability of the welfare state

With the increase in life expectancy and the decrease in the birth rate, Spanish society will face a huge demographic challenge in the coming years. Projections estimate that in 2068 Spain will have more than 14 million elderly citizens, 29.4% of its total population. A reality that will involve need to make significant changes at all levels of society, including the world of work, in order to maintain and optimize the well-being standards currently achieved.

To find out how the business fabric manages the aging of its workforce, the Age & Life Foundation has prepared, in collaboration with the General Directorate of Autonomous Work, Social Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility, belonging to the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, the study “Age management in companies. The aging of the templates ”. The complete document can be consulted in this link.

The objective of the study is to analyze the current degree of implementation of the different measures for managing the aging of workforce in Spanish companies. At the same time, it seeks to highlight the importance of making the world of work aware of the need to develop these policies, and to disseminate existing good practices.

As explained Mary Joseph Abraham, general director of the Age & Life Foundation, the number of older people with the ability to work will increasingly exceed that of younger generations. It is vital that all companies develop adequate management of the age of their workforce, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 8: policies that promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all ”.

Ageism and its relation to the politics of aging

The Age & Life Foundation has prepared this study on the basis of different questionnaires sent to HR managers and general managers of companies in different sectors, including social health, financial, real estate, insurance, manufacturing or food. This questionnaire is made up of four large blocks: demographic data, stereotypes and perceptions about older employees and their productivity, the policies in the age management company, and reflections on the benefits, facilitating factors and detractors of these policies.

The main conclusions of the study point out that:

  • The higher the percentage of older employees (50 years of age and older), the less age-related biases are present, and the more proactive when applying and developing aging management measures.
  • The greater the presence of ageist beliefs and the lower the presence of young employees, the worse the effect of aging on the productivity of its employees, and the less interest in applying measures.
  • The sectors with the greatest presence of age stereotypes are those that involve significant or repetitive physical effort, especially in companies in the health and social services sector.
  • Little knowledge or confusion is detected in many companies about what the age management policies of their workforce really are.
  • Companies with a higher percentage of older workers claim to have more plans and specific measures for age management in their workforces. Although it is true that the debate should be raised about when it is more cost-effective to develop them.
  • More than 80% of companies in the health and social services sector claim to have talent management, continuous training or health promotion plans.
  • 100% of the companies in the financial and insurance sector that have participated in the study have plans to promote health and improve and adapt working conditions.
  • The companies that have responded to the questionnaire within the category of “other services” have, in a percentage higher than 80%, plans to enhance the skills and competencies of their employees, talent management and continuous training.

Finally, the study indicates as lines of action the deep analysis of the structure of each company that allows to analyze its potentialities and challenges that it will face in relation to the aging of its workforce; the development of outreach and training campaigns that combat negative age stereotypes and highlight the benefits of having a diverse workforce at the generational level; and optimizing knowledge of the needs and benefits of age management policies.

According to María José Abraham, “the entire business community must understand that adapting to the demographic change of the coming years will be essential for its survival, and for the sustainability of our welfare system. It is vital to apply measures that favor intergenerational coexistence, the development of extensive work careers, and the retention of talent from older generations, thus harmonizing their needs, those of their employees, and those of society ”.


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