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RR832 - An update of the literature on age and employment

Demographic trends indicate that the make up of the labour force in the UK (and other developed countries) is changing. Older workers are becoming more prevalent in the workforce, there are fewer new workers joining the labour force and older workers are continuing to retire early (Hotopp, 2005, 2007). These changes to the labour force could lead to labour and skills shortages in the future and have implications for the economy in terms of the age dependency ratio (Khan, 2009).

The research in this area suggests that employers can have stereotyped views of the abilities and attitudes of older workers, which can both positively or negatively, influence the retention and recruitment of older individuals (Ilmarinen, 2006; McNair et al, 2007). A previous report by Benjamin and Wilson (2005) considered some of the common stereotypes about older workers and provided evidence and arguments aimed at dispelling inaccurate perceptions about older adults. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned a report to review and update the Benjamin and Wilson (2005) report. The aim was to revisit the literature on age and employment which was published at the time of the Benjamin and Wilson review as well as to consider relevant literature published since (2005-2009). This updated review looks at the evidence for age-related effects on employment in the same areas addressed in the Benjamin and Wilson (2005) report. In addition the report considers trends, gender, and sector specific issues. The same definition of 'older worker' is used in this review as was used by Benjamin and Wilson (2005), which is workers over the age of 50.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2011-01-14