Work it out

Older workers don’t feel that urge to continually search over the rainbow for greener grass.

Elderly Israelis sit in a designated protected space in a senior citizens home in Jerusalem, June 2, 2009, as a siren is sounded during a nationwide civil defense drill simulating a rocket attack.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Elderly Israelis sit in a designated protected space in a senior citizens home in Jerusalem, June 2, 2009, as a siren is sounded during a nationwide civil defense drill simulating a rocket attack.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s aging population is facing a mixed blessing. As reported in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post by Eytan Halon, life expectancy is rising – to an expected 84.4 by 2040. At the same time, many mature, capable members of the workforce are increasingly finding themselves unemployed, victims of either automation technologies or agism.
In many Western societies, including Israel, older workers, after decades of productivity, are often pushed aside in favor of less expensive employees, or because they’re perceived as having “lost a step” or the competitive edge some employers look for, or because they simply cost too much, based on their accumulated worth in salary and pension.
That’s a real shame because, in actuality, workers approaching retirement age are often the most productive, motivated, dedicated and loyal employees that a company could hire.
Gone are the days when a young person enters the workforce, finds a stable job and stays with the same firm for 10, 15 or 40 years. Today, many young workers plan on hopping from job to job within 12-18 months, due to the lure of experiencing new environments and challenges, or short attention spans, or a desire for personal growth. That trumps the old-fashioned “security” argument that previous generations used to justify when sticking to the same job.
Older workers, on the other hand, don’t feel that urge to continually search over the rainbow for greener grass. They have less to prove, or perhaps are less ambitious, and therefore aren’t as likely to job-hop as their younger co-workers. At the same time, they can be a stabilizing force at volatile workplaces as well as provide younger workers with guidance and role models.
Admittedly, pre-millennials and Gen Xers often are at a technological disadvantage compared with their tech-savvy younger co-workers, but they are also vastly more experienced in many fields, in interpersonal relationships, and are often more levelheaded and provide a calming presence in the workplace.
But despite those advantages, many older people find themselves out of the workforce. According to a new study by the Israel Democracy Institute, only 69% of 55-64-year-olds are employed, compared to 85% among 35-44-year-olds. And it’s even worse for those over 65, with 16% being employed.
“It is quite clear that there is a real problem where individuals who were fully employed in their late forties find themselves out of work later, and then struggle to find new jobs,” said Prof. Yotam Margalit, who along with Gabriel Gordon and Yarden Kedar, coauthored the report with the aim to advance policies for the integration and retention of Israeli employees above the age of 50 in the workplace.
“Currently, the overwhelming emphasis is on trying to assist workers that have lost their jobs and have become unemployed. There needs to be more attention to adding proactive programs that will also help workers retrain and upskill while still employed, with the idea that those individuals will either be more attractive to their current employers or to allow them to have more options outside their current place of work, so they’re better able to find better alternatives,” added Margalit.
The employment of older people, even though it would require investment at retraining them, would ease the burden on the National Insurance Institute, which, according to a recent Bank of Israel study, is currently running an actuarial deficit and, without reform, is due to run out of funds in 2050.
 “If we are able to make those older workers stay longer in work, this would increase productivity, increase Israeli output and ultimately pay itself back through taxation and more,” said Margalit.
Totally capable people who have been working for decades shouldn’t be put out to pasture or not considered for jobs simply because they’re perceived as “over the hill.” As anyone who has reached a mature age knows, there are still more hills to climb, and with the accumulated knowledge and experiences that they bring to the table, they are more than capable of getting the job done.


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