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Fear of inadequacy of digital skills worries aged employees

17.4.2020
Kuva: Aki Harju

It has long been known that the ageing of the population will challenge the sustainability of the pension system and its financial basis. The long-term political objective has been to postpone the age of retirement later than earlier.

The latest pension reform was carried out at the beginning of 2017. It was then decided to raise the lower limit of retirement age gradually by 2027. In connection with the same reform, each age group was defined a target retirement age which was higher than the lowest retirement age. At the target retirement age, one receives the employment pension in full. If one carries on working even after that, the increase will add to the old-age pension.

According to the Finnish Centre for Pensions, the age of starting old-age pension has risen by two months from 2018. According to the Quality of Work Life Survey data, the idea of postponing retirement also appears to have grown among those aged 50 to 64 between 2013 and 2018. Pension reforms have thus produced results.

However, it appeared from the 2018 Quality of Work Life Survey that the majority of those aged over 50 (67%) were not ready to prolong their retiring because of the increase for postponement.

If we wish to respond to the political objective to postpone retirement, how to retain in working life this group that is not motivated by money?

According to the Quality of Work Life Survey, working life has become more favourable for aged people in many respects over the 2000s. The work experience of older colleagues is appreciated more than at the start of the millennium. In addition, more employees than before feel supervisors are treating aged people equally.

People aged 50 or over also experience age discrimination less than before. In 1997, seven per cent of people aged 50 or over said they had experienced discrimination because of age. This share was only three per cent in 2018.

On the other hand, some things can be raised from the same survey, for which reason many over 50-year-olds do not want to postpone their retirement under any circumstances. Those that feel their work is mentally or physically heavy are more unwilling to postpone their age of retirement towards the target age. They also want to exit working life more often even before the lowest retirement age.

This is not a surprise as such. Concerning about this is that these problems related to stress and coping have grown considerably in the last few years. (see Sizeable growth in female employees’ coping difficulties also surprised working life researcher)

What these stress factors are is naturally dependent on the work and its nature. There are certainly many reasons. The Quality of Work Life Survey highlights one distinct factor that seems to stress aged people greatly: adequacy of digital skills.

The persons interviewed in the survey could define themselves into categories describing digital skills according to the most appropriate description. The categories were digital expert, skilled user, survivor and drop-out.

Most of the interviewees associated themselves with skilled users, but the majority of those aged 55 or over said they were just survivors.

Experience of one's own digital skills is connected to the desire of employees aged 50 or over to continue longer in working life. Nearly one-half of digital experts were ready to move their age of retirement upwards. Among survivors only around every fourth was ready for this regardless of the respondent’s socio-economic group.

Among persons aged 55 or over, learning to use new applications, information systems and tools lowered their job satisfaction more often than in other age groups. The fear of not keeping up with new technology is particularly big in the oldest age groups – around every fifth aged 50 or over was afraid of this.

The desire to postpone retirement due to the increase among those fearing being left behind was lower than average. Correspondingly, more than average had considered retiring even before the lowest age for old-age pension.

Aged people are hit hardest by the threats formed by digital development as to preserving jobs. Although attitudes have changed into more positive towards aged people, it still appears that when need be, cutting of jobs starts from older employees.

In jobs where changes had been made to the number of personnel due to digitalisation or robotisation, as many as over one-half of persons aged 50 or over felt that the workplace wanted to get rid of aged employees. Only every tenth of other employees in the same age group felt the same.

The group of aged employees continues expanding. Between the 2013 and 2018 Quality of Work Life Surveys alone, the employment rate of persons aged 55 to 64 grew from 58.5 to 65.4 per cent. Thus, coping of the ageing employee group is ever more a key question.

The rate of digital development should not make an employee who is otherwise capable and willing to work drop from working life. Should the preconditions for digital change be supported better than before or should we slow down the speed of working life looking for digital leaps?

 

The writer is Senior Statistician at the Population and Social Statistics department of Statistics Finland.

 

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