Creating longer, more fulfilling working lives

Employer practice in five European countries

 | Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development | May 2016

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This report is the culmination of research carried out by IES on behalf of the CIPD, investigating how employers can best manage an increasingly older workforce in the context of their health and wellbeing and care responsibilities. It is a comparative study covering five European countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and the UK.

The report offers recommendations that have been highlighted by this research, and these should be regarded a starting point for employers to develop a holistic policy to attract and retain the valuable skills and talent of older workers.


The increasing age of Europe’s population and workforce has become a major policy focus, both in the UK and at European level, over the past few years. The fact that an ever-greater proportion of Europe’s workers are classified as older workers creates a number of challenges in the area of employment and social policy. These include an increasing strain on pension systems, in particular in countries that operate ‘pay-as-you-go’ arrangements, where those in work fund the pensions of those who have retired.

From an employment point of view, one challenge – and opportunity – is how to optimise older workers’ active participation in the labour market and extend their working lives. An ageing and slowly growing population means that European employers cannot rely on large numbers of young people entering the labour market and they will increasingly need to tap into the skills and talents of older workers to boost productivity. Employers need to develop an appropriate and attractive employment offering for older workers that addresses a wide range of workplace factors, not only to increase their labour market participation for economic reasons but to enable people to carry on leading fulfilling lives with an element of work if they wish.

Workers in particularly difficult or dangerous jobs tend to retire earlier than their counterparts in other types of work, but the majority of individuals work in jobs that could be continued well beyond 50 – and 60 – with a little thought and some adjustments to tasks and work environment. Other
challenges faced by older workers include a lack of opportunities to retire gradually, exclusion from training and negative perceptions of older people among the workforce as a whole.

The report

This report focuses on the main policy and practice issues that national governments and employers need to consider if they wish to retain their older workers in some key areas, such as:

  • health and wellbeing
  • support with caring responsibilities
  • working time
  • managing retirement
  • countering prejudice and fostering an age-diverse culture.

This research examines the policy frameworks and initiatives on offer to support older workers in five European countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and the UK. In order to carry out a comparative analysis, these countries were chosen for their different industrial relations, employment and social welfare systems (including pensions systems) in addition to their contrasting social and cultural norms, collective bargaining structures and social dialogue cultures.