A dilemma frames the life of the modern 55-year-old: can I ever retire and, on the other hand, if I get fired now will anyone hire me again.

During the last ten years the employment rate of people approaching the age of retirement, the 55 to 64 -year-olds, has been on the rise. Naturally, this is a good thing for the extension of working careers. It also reveals that senior employees are still acceptable workforce, and that they still want to be working.

The reality is not that simple in this matter either, and the situation of every 60-year-old isn’t as rosy as one could think from just looking at the statistics. The employment rate is good for those who are already working but what if you get fired when you are 55? Finding new employment is often hard, almost impossible. In employment co-operation negotiations the over 50-year-olds find their workplace threatened more often than the younger people. Different models aiming to extend working careers drive people almost in their sixties to active job searching or re-education. Even changing careers does not always help to find work. Outside of the nursing field, employers do not see a 58-year-old as a desirable employee.

The thought of well-earned retirement days when you are still in good shape has been a strong cultural model. Nowadays the age of retirement seems to get higher and higher. A dilemma frames the life of the modern 55-year-old: can I ever retire and, on the other hand, if I get fired now will anyone hire me again. If your work career ends in a maelstrom of unemployment and short-term jobs, it decreases your pension and your quality of life during your retirement.

Why older employees are not as desirable workforce as the under 40-year-olds? Might be that they are thought of as slower and less productive workers than the younger people. However, studies have shown that the 50 to 60 -year-olds are as efficient and productive workers as younger people. Productivity is not reliant on the ages of the employees but rather on how the work has been organized. There are plenty of scientific studies proving that senior employees usually have a good motivation for learning and their commitment to work is higher than that of younger people. According to a new study aging doesn’t significantly affect a person’s ability to do their job at least before the age of 60.

Even though people’s physical performance decreases as they age, their mental and social performance stay adequate enough during their whole career as long as they stay healthy. The decrease in physical performance usually only matters when doing physical work.

Aging is often associated with different kinds of illnesses and being sick. Therefore many may be surprised to hear that according to studies there are more people among the senior employees than the younger ones who have taken no sick days. They also have fewer short absences than the younger employees. Short sick leaves are exactly the ones that cause extra organizing and stretching at work places.

What skill would be more important in this modern age of an information flood than to know how to focus on the essential? As knowledge gained through experience increases as people age, the senior employees have a clear advantage here. When age and experience make it more efficient to choose and apply relevant knowledge in clever ways, it makes up for the possible decrease in speed. Life and work experience help understand the relativity of things and strengthen strategic thinking skills,  life control and the ability to ponder, rationalize and make moral decisions. When an aging employee does not need to underline their own accomplishments, they can be a real pillar of support for the whole work community. To maintain that know-how, as well as the diversity of the work community, it is good to have people of different ages working there.

Even though careers have gotten longer in the past few years, the re-hiring of senior employees is still quite rare. It is clear that by hiring a senior employee the employer has a great opportunity to gain a competent, loyal, thoughtful, present employee who sees what is essential to the job and does it well.

Translation by Heli Luosujärvi. The translator is a Master’s-level student of Multilingual Communication and Translation Studies at Tampere University. The translation was produced as part of a project course in English Translation.

More about the subject:

Börsch-Supan, A. and Weiss, M. (2016) Productivity and age: Evidence from work teams at the assembly line. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing volume 7, pages 30–42.

Fleuren BPI, van Amelsvoort LGPM, de Grip A, Zijlstra FRH, Kant I. (2016) Time takes us all? A two-wave observational study of age and time effects on sustainable employability. Scand J Work Environ Health – online first. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3741

Ilmarinen, J. (2006)  Pitkää työuraa!  Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. In Finnish.

Maczulskij, T. (2018)  Työllisyyskehityksen ikäpolarisaatio.  Labour Institute for Economic Research. (Accessed October 22, 2019). In Finnish.

World Health Organisation. (2015) Ageing and productivity (Accessed October 22, 2019.)