Older workers need to make themselves more attractive to employers

Online job searchingOlders workers must make themselves more attractive to employers by keeping skills up to date or accepting lower wages, writes Errol Keyner.

Old is out. Horror stories of older workers trying and failing to find jobs abound.

Recently official receivers revealed companies that have gone broke are getting rid of their (expensive) older workers only to make a fresh start with a cheaper younger workforce. At 40 things are already starting to get difficult. At 50 you might still succeed although chances are you won’t. At 60 you are definitely on the scrap heap.

And the pension age has gone up. No wonder you’re cynical. The fortunate oldies still holding down paid jobs are counting their blessings and will not step down voluntarily in order to look for pastures new.

Employers are often held responsible for this state of affairs. They should invest more in training, for example. Or they should simply employ more older people. And the government – who else – would have to enforce this by setting down some ground rules.

Responsibility

But  I’m afraid it’s us older workers who should take responsibility. If young people are nudging the older workers out of the labour market, the older workers must either be more productive or cheaper.

If, like me, you are pounding the keyboard as if it were a typewriter from the middle of the last century while a (much cheaper) youngster elegantly and effortlessly uses an IT application you know you have some catching up to do.

Greater work and life experience are not enough. We must make sure we offer value for money. That means getting training. When things aren’t going a smoothly as before we will have to put in more of an effort or compensate for lower productivity by sacrificing part of our free time.

And if all that doesn’t do the trick we will have to bite the bullet and make ourselves more attractive to employers. That means significantly lower wages and indirect labour costs for those older workers who have been left behind in the productivity race.

Perhaps that is what the government should be advocating, or perhaps even enforcing.

Errol Keyner is deputy director of the Dutch Investors’ Association (VEB). He wrote this column in a personal capacity.

This column was published earlier by Z24