Academic Research on Older Workers

"Employer Concerns and Responses to an Aging Workforce" Robert L. Clark, Steven Nyce, Beth Ritter, John B. Shoven, NBER Working Paper No. 25572, February 2019.


Economist and public policy analysts have devoted considerable research to examining the work and retirement decisions of employees. Much less effort has been spent on understanding the concerns and challenges of employers if their workers delay retirement and remain on the job until older ages. In this study, we report findings from three employer surveys with the objective of learning how organizations are responding to the aging of their workforces. The surveys provide several important observations. First, employer concerns about workforce aging vary considerably across the economy. To some firms, these demographic changes are of immediate concern and are viewed as a significant risk to the organization while other firms remain more concerned about potential productivity and cost effect of an older labor force. Second, most employers expect the importance of workforce aging to increase in the next five years. In response, a significant proportion of organizations are making changes to working conditions and compensation policies. Third, firms remain reluctant to adopt formal phased retirement policies but are more willing to offer part-time employment, return to work, and other policies on a case by case basis.

"Training older workers: Lessons learned, unlearned, and relearned from the field of instructional design" Shahron Williams van Rooij, Human Resource Management Volume 51, Issue 2, pages 281–298, March/April 2012.


Changing workforce demographics have highlighted the need to provide training and development opportunities for older workers. This article critically examines the current state of research on the use of systematic instructional design procedures to develop work-related training that is inclusive of older workers. The review reveals a disconnect between what the literature recommends to achieve age-inclusive design and what is offered as evidence of age-inclusive design. Age-related generalizations about cognition and learning capacity often serve as the basis for design decisions, with little attention paid to the role of training context and content. The article recommends that this disconnect be resolved and offers some specific suggestions about how human resource managers can integrate sound instructional design principles into the training and development component of their talent management strategies.

"Employed and Happy Despite Weak Health? Labour market participation and job quality of older workers with disabilities" Catherine Pollak, Working paper 45, Institut de Recherche et Documentation en Economie de la Sante (Paris), March 2012.


European countries with high senior employment rates have the highest levels of job satisfaction despite an older and more physically limited workforce. In this paper, we argue that this paradox can be explained by heterogeneous levels of job quality: better working conditions may enable older workers with disabilities to remain satisfied and employed. Using panel data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, we find that health status, job satisfaction, but also working conditions, are major individual determinants of early labour market exits. We also show that high intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can mitigate the selective effects of disability. Finally, the comparative analysis reveals that older workers with disabilities are more likely to be employed in countries where they receive higher rewards. The findings therefore indicate that improved job quality is a major factor of successful active ageing strategies

"Health and safety of the older worker" Alexandra Farrow and F. Reynolds, Journal of Occupational Medicine, Vol. 62, No. 1 (January 2012)


Results: Very little direct evidence was found concerning safety practices and health risks of workers over age 60. Some safety risks were associated with specific physical declines such as age-related hearing loss. Overall, these workers had fewer accidents and injuries but these were more likely to be serious or fatal when they occurred. There was no strong evidence that work patterns, including shift work or overtime, affected safety. Protective, compensatory strategies or experience may maintain safe working practices.

Conclusions: Implications for health and safety risks cannot be assessed without longitudinal research on workforces with substantial numbers of workers over age 60 in order to address the healthy worker effect.

"Does age matter for employability? A field experiment on ageism in the Swedish labour market" Ali M. Ahmedab, Lina Anderssona & Mats Hammarstedt, Applied Economics Letters, Volume 19, Issue 4 (2012)

Abstract: This article presents the findings of the first field experiment on age discrimination in the Swedish labour market. Pairs of matched applications, one from a fictitious 31-year-old male applicant and one from a fictitious 46-year-old male applicant, were sent to employers with job openings for restaurant workers and sales assistants. Employers' responses to the applicants were then recorded. The experimental data provide clear and strong evidence of significant ageism in the Swedish labour market. On average, the younger applicant received over 3 times more responses from employers looking to hire a restaurant worker and over 4 times more responses from employers looking to hire a sales assistant than the older applicant. Therefore, the older applicant received significantly fewer invitations for interviews and job offers than the younger applicant in both occupations examined.

"Productivity and age: Evidence from work teams at the assembly line" Axel Börsch-Supan and Matthias Weiss (University of Mannheim; 2011)

Abstract: We study the relation between workers' age and their productivity in work teams, based on a new and unique data set that combines data on errors occurring in the production process of a large car manufacturer with detailed information on the personal characteristics of workers related to the errors. We correct for non-random sample selection and the potential endogeneity of the age-composition in work teams. Our results suggest that productivity does not decline at least up to age 60

"Special Issue: Contemporary empirical advancements in the study of aging in the workplace" Journal of Organizational Behavior (February 2011, Volume 32, Issue 2)

A collection of nine empirical essays on issues of relating to age in the workplace, running the gamut from the beginning of the employment cycle (attraction and recruitment) to the end (retirement).