Workability + workplace age management

Not every government and every company are asleep at the switch as healthspans lengthen, birth rates fall, migration slows, and the hard-stop age of retirement disappears. Some are blazing new trails, making big moves to better manage ageing workers and boost tax coffers and bottom lines.

On The Big Middle this time, Susan gets a global tour of workforce age management practices from Dr Chris Ball, an expert on the challenges, opportunities + implications of workforce ageing.


Hear what when:

  • His work at CROW, the Centre for Research on the Older Workforce, at UK’s Newcastle and Hull Universities
  • Is super-ageing Japan a pacesetter in age management practises? Yes and no
  • He decries the lack of gender wage parity in Japan relative to the UK; I press the point that we only have it in the UK in legislation and theory, certainly not practice
  • Which countries and corporates are making the most impressive moves on managing older workers? Finland a pacesetter when it comes to collaboration and social partnerships
  • Finnish model of ‘workability’ as a measurable predictor of early retirement, balancing it against the degree of difficulty of the work and its context
  • Germany, like many developed countries with a shrinking and ageing workforce, also using a version of the workability index
  • BMW and Mercedes have adapted workplaces for older workers and improved productivity
  • Age discrimination, skepticism and a lack of comprehension of the term age management are the reasons why the UK is on the back foot when it comes to managing its older workers

“When I’ve spoken to government ministers about it they tended to think that it was a bit odd, uniquely European, something that could be done in small countries but not the UK.”

  • Some UK corporates are so risk-averse to charges of discrimination that could land them before a tribunal that they, nonsensically, avoid doing anything to accommodate older workers
  • What the US is doing to manage its ageing workforce

”I don’t think the Americans have really risen to the challenge in the same way as some of the European countries have.”

  • His national picks for best age management practice
  • Canada? Good on local support programmes
  • The hormonal assault of menopause can cause some women to run for the workplace exit, never going back as they are the biggest cohort shut out of labour market
  • He doesn’t like terms that reference the natural hair colour – silver – of older people, preferring the Japanese concept of “getting at the gold in people’s minds.”

“If you want to talk about silver / gold currency of any kind, get to the gold in people’s minds by positively engaging with them and valuing them in the organisations they work for.”

  • At 74, does he feel rewarded and engaged by his work?
  • He jokes that there’s an unexpected competition advantage as an older runner and cyclist
  • How best restructure society and institutions to stamp out ageism? Shuffle around the life stages to give parents more time to spend with their children?
  • He wants role of grandparents better recognised and enhanced
  • Global movement to raise consciousness about ageism and age management of older workers is gaining ground but employers out of step
  • The importance of lifelong learning; UK trade unions are organised to deliver this to olders

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