New times ahead: emerging workforce
During the years after the war, there was an increase in the number of babies born in the UK, hence the term ‘baby boom’. But populations rise and fall, and so do the demographics therein. Due to a fall in the number of births, the age of the country’s people as a whole is set to rise.
This increase in the number of older people brings with it a number of challenges in terms of public spending and already the default retirement age of 65 had been abolished. Those who can afford to can still retire whenever they like, of course, but it is envisaged that in the future people will work for a longer period of their life than they had previously.
And according to an ICM poll that was commissioned a couple of years ago, less than a third of the workforce has made ‘adequate’ provision for retirement, which suggests that the majority of people could be working beyond the age of 65.
Implications for business
The Equality Act of 2010 makes it clear that employees can’t be discriminated against because of the age they happen to be. Which in turn means that organisations will increasingly require to have policies in place to prevent it occurring in the areas of recruitment, pay, training and so on.
From a health perspective, it’s obviously the case that older employees will have different needs and requirements. According to the UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive there are differing patterns of absence between younger and older employees in general – older people having fewer instances of sick leave, but the absences being for a longer period of time.
One important factor for health is that – as we all know – healthy lifestyles mean better health overall in the long run. So encouraging a set of conditions that mean the young workforce of today have healthy habits will have a positive effect on the future of their health.
The holistic approach – managing the age mix
Regardless of what average age the workforce eventually becomes, there is likely to be increasing focus on health and wellbeing – since both of these now look unarguably to have positive effects on productivity.
Continually improving things like job design, mental health promotion, working practices and so on, should mean the health of the workforce will undoubtedly benefit. Group health insurance is likely to become more often included as part of the employee benefits package, especially as when the population ages more strain is widely predicted to be put on the health service.
Technology in terms of medical procedures, treatments and diagnostics will likely also have an effect on the workforce – and in the last two decades sickness absence has decreased to a remarkable extent. If this trend continues, then the chances are that some of the health issues that can affect older employees will be lessened in effect.
Human longevity is on the increase. And as the island communities of Okinawa in Japan and Ikaria in Greece have shown us, people can live healthy and productive lives to an age that far surpasses even the life expectancy of previous generations.
About the author: health blogger J. Jones writes on workplace wellbeing for a number of blogs, add her to your circles on Google+.