Examples from countries studied

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Given the lack of overarching statistics on guidance and active age management in the workplace, this study gathered additional information at national level.

Generally, information on country level echoes lack of systematic quantitative data collection on this topic, although some studies were referred to at national level. Generally, these studies confirm the low awareness of age management issues within companies across Europe.

Recent research, for example on human resources strategies in companies in the Czech Republic, shows that only 13% of Czech employers have included efforts to retain older employees in their strategic plans.

In the UK, a survey of human resources professionals showed that only a quarter of organisations had a strategy for career development for all staff, and only a third felt that senior management was committed to career management activities. Only some of the organisations reporting a strategy provide some type of guidance to their staff.

Low awareness of the relevance of age management and the role of guidance starts partly with stereotypical perceptions of older workers. In Sweden, for example, a recent survey shows that approximately 25% of union representatives and 15% of employers believe that older people should retire earlier to make way for younger people (Swedish Government, 2013). Many older people have, nevertheless, indicated in surveys that they would like to work longer.

Sources in some countries also claim that many companies show little interest investing in strategies for promoting education for all ages, and in particular for workers over 50; the benefits are not seen as proportionate to the costs. In other cases, adult workers avoid training and retraining because they are unwilling to change old habits, or do not trust the general purpose of the learning activities.

Despite general low awareness of age management issues, there are a few examples of companies that successfully incorporated comprehensive systems and organisational solutions in their management strategies and everyday operations. In Denmark, for example, the trade union HK reports that one out of three members were covered by an age management strategy in their last job. For those formerly employed in the private sector, almost 80% were not covered by a senior scheme.

A survey among training enterprises in Germany, carried out in 2008, also shows a more positive picture, reporting that 67% of enterprises which provide continuing vocational training to their staff take the age structure of the workforce into consideration. Of these enterprises, 36% were aware of government funding programmes and 35% feel that continuing vocational training targeted for older employees is a good idea.

The differences in awareness of this subject are also influenced by the fact that in some countries, especially the new Member States, active ageing is a relatively new concept. For example, although statistics are not available there are reasons to believe that most Estonian enterprises have not implemented any active age management policies, since the whole concept of active ageing and everything related to the subject is quite new and awareness is rare. This type of deduction is not supported by objective data, rather being derived from anecdotal evidence in interviews and conversations during fieldwork.

The economic crisis generally had a negative impact on age management policies, receiving less attention than in previous years. A concrete example was reported in Italy where government funding cuts drove a number of enterprises which developed interesting practices in age management to interrupt these practices (ASPA, 2010). Similar reports were found in Spain, from national experts, suggesting that this could also apply in most of the EU.

National level information also suggests that age management seems to follow a pattern in terms of the size of the firms. When practices are in place they are developed either by the larger (multinational) organisations or, at the other end of the spectrum, by small family firms. This suggests an association between age management practices and higher organisation of human resources procedures, in the former case. Family-owned culture, allied to the difficulty of replacing experienced staff in very small units, likely applies in the latter case.

Regional differences are sometimes reported. A study in Italy indicates that most companies that employ active age management policies are located in the north of Italy, while the rest were located in the central area, and none from the south.