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Aged people are encouraged to stay at work – though some feel that the aim is to get rid of them

Twitterissä: @HannaSutela
Kuva: Kari Likonen

The employment rate of aged people has risen strongly over the 2000s. While in 2003 only 42.3 per cent (women 41.0%, men 43.5%) of those aged 55 to 64 were employed, in 2019 the employment rate of the age group reached 66.8 per cent (women 68.6%, men 64.8%).

There is, of course, still room for improvement. Ways of achieving this are considered thoroughly. The main focus has been on the problematic nature of the retirement pathway system, as it is thought to encourage employers to dismiss aged employees.

In the employer's opinion, dismissal of an employee entitled to the retirement pathway may well be the lesser of two evils if the personnel need to be reduced for one reason or another. However, the existence of the retirement pathway can also be useful if it is feared that aged employees will be expensive due to their possible future incapacity to work or falling work efficiency, are considered to block the career development of younger employees or are no longer suited to the youthful image of the firm. 

How common is it for employees aged over 50 to think that the aim is to get rid of them at the workplace?

Statistics Finland's 2018 Quality of Work Life Survey shows that attitudes towards ageing people in working life have become more positive over the 2000s and age discrimination directed at people aged over 50 has decreased at workplaces.

In fact, in 2018, employees aged over 50 experienced discrimination at their workplace because of their age even less often (3%) than employees aged under 30 (5%). At the end of the 1990s, the situation was rather the opposite and the shares were larger.

An increasing number of over 50-year-olds also feel that ageing people are encouraged at their workplace to stay on at work at least to some extent. While good one fifth (22%) thought so in 2003, the respective proportion was nearly one third (32%) in 2018. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Aged people are encouraged at the workplace to stay at work, wage and salary earners aged over 50 by sex
Figure about Aged people that are encouraged at the workplace to stay at work, wage and salary earners aged over 50 by sex
Source: Quality of Work Life Surveys 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2008, Statistics Finland

In 2018, encouraging aged people to stay on at work was more common in the local government sector (36%) than in the private sector (30%) or the central government sector (25%). The differences by industry are not large apart from the industry of information and communication activities, and financial, insurance and real estate activities. In them, it was clearly rarer to encourage aged people to continue working than on average.  

However, more than every tenth wage and salary earner aged over 50 (women 12%, men 13%) felt in 2018 that the aim at the workplace is to get rid of aged employees rather than to encourage them to stay on at work.

It is interesting that the respondent's sex, educational background or socio-economic group did not separate the responses much. However, the experience was more common in the private sector (15%) than among wage and salary earners in the central government (10%) or the local government sector (8%).

Wage and salary earners aged over 50 working in information and communication activities and in financial intermediation, insurance and real estate activities thought clearly more often than others that the aim was to get rid of aged people at their workplace. The corresponding shares were lowest in human health and social work activities, professional, scientific and technical activities, and agriculture and forestry.

The experience of aged employees getting smoked out seemed to be especially strongly connected with changes in the number of personnel at the workplace during the past three years. At workplaces where the personnel had been reduced, as many as 23 per cent of the over 50-year-olds were of the opinion that the aim was to get rid of aged employees. At those workplaces where the reduction of the personnel was felt to be at least partly connected to digitalisation or robotisation, one in two thought so.

By contrast, at workplaces where the number of personnel had remained the same or increased, only around one in ten felt that the aim was to get rid of aged people at the workplace.

The attitudes at the workplace naturally have a bearing on aged people’s wishes to continue working. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of those wage and salary earners aged over 50 who feel their employer wants to get rid of aged workers could consider continuing on at work even after their lowest age of old-age pension. By contrast, nearly one-third (31%) of wage and salary earners who do not experience similar pressure are thinking of postponing their retirement beyond that lower limit.


 The author is Senior Researcher at Statistics Finland's Information and Statistical Services.

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