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How to counteract the impact of an ageing population

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The average age of workers is rising across the majority of the world’s labour markets. Neglecting these high skilled workers, who will soon retire, exacerbates an already acute skills shortage. Alistair Cox, CEO of recruiting experts Hays, explains what can be done to alleviate the situation.

Businesses need to first ensure they retain the key talent and skills already within their organisation as the pool of available workers ages and potentially begins to shrink.

An easy solution is to lengthen the older employees’ work span. As life expectancy increases by two or three years every decade, it is natural for the deferral of retirement.

“The prospect of people living much longer also calls into the question the usefulness of an official retirement or pension age and whether it is a thing of the past – policy makers may have to examine this in much closer detail in the coming years,” Cox said.

To pre-empt any adverse impact on businesses and the economy, businesses need to upskill workers and future-proof employees’ skills, as well as prepare them for ongoing technological and organisational changes such as AI, machine learning and robotics.

The unique landscape of today’s workforce, which comprises five generations, provides an extraordinary competitive edge where businesses can transfer the knowledge of older workers to younger colleagues.

A two-way mentoring system for organisations can facilitate the sharing of knowledge and provide older workers with the opportunity to gain an understanding of newer technologies emerging in the workplace.

While some positive changes in terms of employment practices and training are underway in global labour markets, a robust strategy needs to be supplemented to help the ageing workforce, and which is co-ordinated between business and governments.

“To help foster skills among the workforce, businesses – supported by government policy – need to devote greater time and investment into training and reskilling their current employees, while also modernising working practices to account for flexible working, career breaks and parenting,” Cox said.

“In short, the businesses of today need a clear strategy in place for supporting and managing the ageing workforce of tomorrow.”



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