Longitudinal Employer–Employee Perspectives on the Role of Human Capital Investments for Retirement Transitions (2017 - 2019)
In 2017 I received a research grant Horizon 2020 – Maria Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship from the European Commission for my project LEEP. The projet investigated the role of human capital investments for retirement transitions, taking into account both the perspective of older workers and employers.
Most Western countries are developing policies to deal with the ongoing ageing of their population, including increasing retirement ages. Continuous acquisition and adjustment of skills in older age are considered necessary to extend working lives and postpone retirement. Despite the large budgets, European and national policy interventions have usually failed to stimulate lifelong learning (LLL) at older ages. One of the reasons for this has been an inadequate design of the policy programmes, which focuses primarily on individuals and neglects organisations. Employees must be willing and able to work longer in the context of changing labour markets, technological progress, and development knowledge economies. However, also employers must be willing and able to provide adequate opportunities for extended employment and manage older labour forces. This perspective characterises retirement as an effect of employer–employee relations, in which longer working lives depend on continuous development and adjustments of individuals’ skills and human resources management.
The LEEP project investigated the role of human capital investments for retirement transitions, taking into account both the perspective of older workers and employers. It considers two areas as crucial for efficient ageing policies: LLL and organisational approaches that address older workers. The role of employers has been neglected in ageing research and by policy-makers and the LEEP project aimed to fill this gap. This study had an interdisciplinary scope that lies at the intersection of social gerontology, sociology, economy, management, demography, and education. It offered a comprehensive approach to integrate (1) individual and company perspectives theoretically and empirically in a system-level context; (2) a lifecourse approach, considering employment situation and retirement decisions of individuals as a part of life-trajectory; (3) and a comparative European perspective.
Comparative empirical evidence was provided based on rarely used longitudinal data, analysed using advanced statistical modelling, and interpreted within a lifecourse approach. The originality also lies in investigating company-level data, which are used rarely in ageing research. The research used panel data of individuals (The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe – SHARE), employers surveys (Dutch NIDI Employers survey; Polish Study of Human Capital – Employers Survey), combined employer-employee panel data (Dutch NIDI Pension Panel), and population survey (Polish Study of Human Capital – Population Survey).
Results of the project contribute to the understanding of the investment in human capital and organisational policies for postponing retirement decisions. Existing studies do not address the role of changing organisational approaches and development of pro-active age management. The LEEP project aimed to fill this gap and primarily focused on the role of employers and organisational policies. It also aligned with growing research on ageing labour markets and increased need for advanced longitudinal studies. The study is relevant to European and national policy objectives that address ageing populations and LLL.
In the first study (published in “Work, Employment and Society”), we show an indirect link between age stereotypes and age discrimination in Poland, thus contributing to an understanding of the mechanisms that reduce employability of older people. Results show that the chances of an older candidate being hired are strongly hindered in jobs requiring training skills, as well as computer and creative skills. Such a combination of strong discriminatory effects suggests a general image of older workers who are unable to adjust to a modern economy. Consequences can be especially profound for countries such as Poland, which must use human capital of the 50-plus population efficiently to develop economies able to compete with Western Europe.
In the second study, we provided a new perspective on LLL. We considered path-dependency and accessibility of training in the population of 50+ in twelve European countries. Results suggest that training participation is path-dependent and access to training is limited for people who have not trained previously. Access to training is greater in countries with stronger knowledge economies, stronger emphasis on education, and a proactive ageing climate. We argue that LLL and ageing policies should include a lifecourse perspective to address the problem of path dependencies.
In the third study, we found a major pro-active shift in age management in Dutch organisations between 2009 and 2017. We show a strong decreases of organisation which offered no age management and those focusing on exit measures, and an increase of active organisations. Active age management is no longer concentrated in large and developing organisations, but has become a standard human resources tool. The same applies to popularity of training dedicated to older workers which increased substantially.
The fourth study considered retirement preferences and retirement decisions as an effect of training participation, individual attitudes and organisation-level factors. The novel approach, which integrates individual and organisational perspectives is based on unique employer-employee data. Environment and opportunities provided at work shape retirement decisions of employees by encouraging them to retain or leave. We show that supportive organisational climate stimulates training participation, and training increases the preferred retirement age, which then contributes to a lower probability of retiring early.
In the fifth study, we analyse the effect of the way of measuring LLL for the values of indicators that are used in public policies. We show that even minor changes in questionnaire results in large changes of indicators. This brings important practical implication, as different approaches of European countries to monitoring and evaluate LLL result in incomparability of indicators.
In the sixth study, we systematically reviewed evidence of causes of an increase in ages of labour market exit over the past 30 years. Evidence supports the role of pension reforms whish increase retirement age and limit early retirement options. However, much of the trend remains unexplained. In particular, studies have not addressed the role of changing organisational approaches and development of pro-active age management. This study brings implications for policies aiming at increasing retirement ages.
Turek K., J. Oude Mulders, K. Henkens (in press), The Proactive Shift in Managing an Older Workforce 2009-2017: A Latent Class Analysis of Organizational Policies, The Gerontologist [working paper pdf]
Turek K., K. Henkens (2019) How Skill Requirements Affect the Likelihood of Recruitment of Older Workers in Poland: The Indirect Role of Age Stereotypes, Work Employment & Society [pdf]
Turek K., K. Henkens (2019), Accessibility of Training in Older Age: A Longitudinal European Perspective, Netspar Discussion Paper [pdf]