Active Ageing: What differential experiences across EU countries?

5. Trends in the labour market engagement of older workers
As shown in Figure 6, in EU27, the proportion of older workers employed increased significantly between 2005 and 2010. The most notable aspect is that the rising trend of employment among older workers has been either halted (for men) or slowed down (for women) due to the recession in 2008. For both men and women of age 55-64, employment recorded a 3 percentage point (p.p.) increase between 2005 and 2008. The rising trend for women in this age group continued beyond 2008 but it stagnated for men. The employment rate among the so-called silver workers, aged 65-74, is much lower, but there has also been a rising trend during the period 2005-2008 and a stagnation during 2008-2010.
5.1 Trends in employment of male workers aged 55-64
In most countries, the rising trend of employment among male workers of age 55-64 (during the period 2005-2008) was halted, slowed down or reversed due to the recession that started late in 2008 (see Table A.5, Annex A, for detailed results). For example, in Austria, the employment rate for men in this age group recorded a remarkable rise of 10 p.p. during 2005-2008 and no significant change was observed in the subsequent two years. In Bulgaria, older male workers of this age group experienced a similar rise as in Austria during the period 2005-2008, but then experienced a contraction of -5 p.p. during 2008-2010. In Germany, the growth in employment for this group during 2005-2008 has been an impressive +8 p.p., and it slowed down considerably during the following two years (to almost +4 p.p.). Latvia offers the most staggering reversal of the trend: from a change in p.p. that is almost similar to that of Germany during the period 2005-2008 (+8 p.p.), it moved to a contraction of -15.5 p.p., which took the employment rate among this group to even lower than that observed in 2005. Bulgaria and Lithuania also show similar reversal of fortunes for older male workers after 2008.

Figure 6: Trends in employment rate, workers aged 55-64 and 65-74, by gender, 2005-2010, EU27

5.2 Trends in employment of female workers aged 55-64
The trend observed on average in EU27 for older female workers aged 55-64 is also observed in the majority of countries: there was a rising trend of employment during 2005-2008 and it slowed down afterwards due to the recession in 2008 (see Table A.5, Annex A). The impact of the recession is clearly less for older female workers than that observed for older male workers of this age group. There are also some exceptional results: In Slovenia and Poland, the female employment picked up even more after the recession, and in Denmark there is reversal from a contraction in employment of female older workers during 2005-2008 to a growth in the employment rate for this age group during 2008-2010.

Figure 7: Trends in employment rate of workers aged 55-64, 2005-2010

Figure 8: Trends in employment rate of workers aged 65-74 (the ‘Silver Workers’), 2005-2010

5.3 Three groups of countries: Laggards, Average performers and High Performers
Figure 7 reports on employment rate of all older workers (men and women together) in the age group 55-64. These trends are useful as they classify countries into three different groups, on the basis of their positions relative to the EU average in the base year 2005.
The first group of countries can be referred to ‘laggards’ as they were typically the countries where the likelihood of older workers employed had been rather low. The majority of these countries show a distinctly rising trend, particularly in Austria, Slovakia and Bulgaria but also in Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary and Poland. Note also that the differential effect of the recession, that started late in 2008, in Bulgaria and Slovenia.
The second group consists of ‘Average performers’ as their position in the base year was similar to the EU27 average. Germany and the Netherlands had shown a markedly rising trend in the employment of older workers (although a fall is observed in the Netherlands during the latest year). The employment rate for this age group (55-64) in other countries (the Czech Republic, Greece, France and Spain) remained largely unchanged during the period 2005-2010 (largely due to a decline in the recession years).
The third group is the high performing group of countries with respect to the employment of older workers – viz. High performers. They exhibit mixed temporal experiences. The decline in Estonia and Latvia is most notable, and this is largely due to the recession. Sweden is in a league of its own, where close to 70% of older workers in the age group 55-64 are in employment, and there is hardly any adverse change after 2008.
The evidence, presented in Figure 8, on the employment of the so-called silver workers, age group 65-74, shows that countries that do well in keeping older workers of age 55-64 also have high employment among silver workers. There are some notable exceptions though: Slovenia does relatively better in terms of employment of silver workers, and there is comparatively less employment among silver workers in France and Spain.

5 Due to small cell size, it is not useful to further subdivide these results across men and women.

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