In Australia, as in most other industrialized economies, there is growing concern about the work capacity of older workers and their retention in the workforce against a background of population aging and efforts to prolong working lives. It is widely recognized that working later will be promoted by equipping industry and workers with instruments that can gauge working potential. Although policy makers in most industrialized nations now consider an extension of working lives as the basis of sustaining welfare systems and offsetting decline in the number of young labor market entrants, globalization and the competition this fosters present as a strong countervailing force for both government and employers. Certain groups, including older workers with few or outdated skills, and those with declining health may be particularly affected by job insecurity and long-term unemployment. Reconciling these seemingly countervailing tensions is a problem now facing a number of industrialized economies. A resilient older worker whose skills and capabilities can easily adjust as the requirements of the market shift would help maintain labor productivity growth even as populations age (Hagemann and Nicoletti 1989). "From Introduction"
Both Germany and the UK are experiencing substantial ageing of their workforces and, simultaneously, their workforces are shrinking. At the same time it is important to note that older workers, particularly men, have been regarded by employers and policy makers as a reserve labour army in the past in both countries (Naegele and Walker, 2002a). Older workers have been confronted with numerous forms of direct and indirect discrimination in both the workplace and in the labour market in general. The result has been long-term unemployment and non-employment among older workers. Employment rates of older workers in both countries have declined dramatically over the past twenty years, although significant differences between the United Kingdom and Germany can be observed (Walker, 2002a). Low labour market participation rates are mainly due to early retirement schemes in Germany, which have been implemented in past decades (Naschold et aI., 1994; Ebbinghaus, 2001) and due to usage of occupational pension schemes, disability benefits as quasi-early retirement, early retirement schemes and discouragement from staying in work in the UK (Taylor and Walker, 1996; Taylor and Unwin, 1999). Although early exit pathways have been terminated or their scope limited and there is an increasing emphasis on prolonging working life, the legacy in terms of promoting negative views of older workers is persistent. [Introduction]