Published: 09th July 2018
Should retired workers be recalled? How the German government is discouraging people from retiring early
Germany faces a serious skill shortage as the post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation retires. The working-age population is expected to shrink by approximately 2 million by 2030
I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old books, old wine
— Oliver Goldsmith, Irish writer
Now you can add ‘old work’ to Goldsmith’s list if you’re in Germany, employed and retired from high-end carmaker, Mercedes-Benz. For us in India, applying for jobs over and over again and employers not replying is a sad reality for potential workers at the entry point. For those lucky to be employed, the retirement age in many cases has gone up from 58 to 60 and in many countries, it is beyond 60.
Meanwhile, many aspirants for jobs secretly hope that those due for retirement will retire and make space for those waiting for jobs and promotions. Even those employed want their seniors to retire and they hope and pray that the seniors are not given an extension so that they can step into the shoes of the retirees with the higher salaries and perks that go with the retiree’s position. Against this background, a German company of international repute is out to re-employ retirees. But first, the facts as reported from Berlin and excerpted here.
Too slow, inflexible, forgetful, always off sick — those are some attitudes about older workers that carmaker Mercedes-Benz is trying to dispel as Germany grapples with the challenges of an aging society. The luxury brand owned by Germany’s Daimler AG is waging a company-wide campaign to combat those mistaken impressions. “We wanted a paradigm shift in attitudes,” said Sylvia Huette-Ritterbusch, a Mercedes personnel expert whose job is to decide what skills the firm will need in the future. One initiative Daimler has developed is an exhibition to challenge stereotypes about aging. It has already been visited by 80,000 people, including 2,500 of its factory managers, and has now been brought to Berlin and opened to the public.
Visitors are asked to choose between the ‘young’ or ‘old’ door to enter the exhibition. Many retired visitors, who obviously feel young at heart, come in through the ‘young’ door. Once inside, they can take tests to measure memory, balance, ability to work in a team, the tightness of grip, how high they can jump and how easily they can relax. The initiative has been championed by Mercedes production head Markus Schaefer, who says: “Many prejudices about aging are long out-of-date. Every age has potential. Age diversity means diversity of experience, perspectives, and new ideas.” The average age of Daimler’s 136,000 employees in Germany is 44.7 years.
Germany faces a serious skill shortage as the post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation retires. The working-age population is expected to shrink by approximately 2 million by 2030. The German government has moved to discourage people from retiring early and the pension age is scheduled to rise gradually from 65 to 67 by 2030.
Company initiatives and government policies seem to be bearing fruit. The employment rate among those aged 55 to 60 has risen sharply in the last decade. Germany now has one of Europe’s highest rates of older people working. In the Indian context, the realities are different.