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Employers’ attitudes and actions towards the extension of working lives in Europe

Wieteke S. Conen (Department of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands and Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), The Hague, The Netherlands)
Kène Henkens (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), The Hague, The Netherlands and Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands)
Joop Schippers (Department of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 7 September 2012




Although policymakers have put great efforts into the promotion of older workers’ labour force participation, quantitative empirical knowledge about employers’ views towards extension of working lives is limited. The purpose of this paper is to improve the understanding of employers’ attitudes and actions towards extension of working lives, by examining recruitment and retention behaviour towards older workers, employers’ views on the consequences of an ageing workforce, organisational policies, and what governments can do to extend working lives.


The authors analyse surveys administered to employers in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK in 2009.


It is found that a minority of employers have applied measures to recruit or retain older workers, and employers rather retain than hire older workers. A considerable share of employers, albeit to different degrees per country, associate the ageing of their staff with a growing gap between labour costs and productivity. Employers expecting a larger gap do not apply more organisational measures to either increase productivity or adjust the cost‐productivity balance. Employers may think the cost‐productivity issue is partly for governments to solve; employers expecting a larger cost‐productivity gap consider wage subsidies to be an effective measure to extend working lives.


The paper addresses the employers’ perspective, one that is often neglected compared to attitudes and behaviour of older workers themselves and research on institutional arrangements. This paper is also among the first to report on employers’ policies and practices from a cross‐national perspective.



Conen, W.S., Henkens, K. and Schippers, J. (2012), "Employers’ attitudes and actions towards the extension of working lives in Europe", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 648-665.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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