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“Active ageing” in employment – The German case. Active Ageing – the Potential for Society Dublin, 9-11 July 2012. Prof. Dr. Gerhard Naegele Institute of Gerontology at the TU Dortmund University Focus of the presentation. Interdependencies between

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“Active ageing” in employment – The German case

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“Active ageing” in employment – The German case

Active Ageing – the Potential for Society

Dublin, 9-11 July 2012

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Naegele

Institute of Gerontology at the TU Dortmund University

Focus of the presentation

  • Interdependencies between

  • Active ageing in employment with focus on the company level

  • Workability/employability/productivity

  • Corporate age – management

  • Life-course oriented personnel polices

  • Database”

  • Own research on “good practice in corporate age management

  • Member of the 6th Federal (German) commission reporting on the situation of senior citizens“

Drivers for the change of paradigm

  • Demographic reasons

  • Shrinking and “greying” of the workforce

  • Baby-boomers exiting the labour market

  • Shortage of skilled labour

  • Rising acknowledgement of human capital

  • Positive cohort effects

  • “Work-age-paradox” (Walker)

  • Legislation on age discrimination (since 2006)

  • Pressure on social security systems

  • (“pay as you go principle”)

  • To react to new demands in the “silver market”

Example: Change in age structure of staff at BMW group (plant Dingolfing)

Source::BMW Group, 2011

The German way - change of paradigm in Germany`s „older-worker-policies“

  • Is primarily based on concerns about the sustainability of pension systems

  • Prime aim to stop early retirement and to retain older workers longer in working life

  • Until recently, ad-hoc, fragmented instead of holistic, integrated policy approaches

  • Currently, three policy approaches to be distinguished

  • Rising the statutory pension age (“Rente mit 67”)

  • Special programmes to integrate older unemployed

  • Influencing corporate age management practice e.g. by

  • Collective demographic bargaining

  • Disseminating of good practice

Special programmes to integrate older unemployed

  • Raising public awareness among business and workers

  • Promotion of vocational training for older workers

  • Special focus on older workers in sms companies

  • Lowering the age limits for wage subsidies

  • Extension of special wage subsidies for older workers into the so-called secondary labour market

  • Employment agencies obliged to control the individual development

  • Extension of non age-specific measures which also benefit older workers

  • Further vocational training

  • Testing and short-term training measures for long-term unemployed

  • Promotion of self-employment

  • Job creation measures

Collective agreement on demographic change in the Iron and Steel Industry


  • Create age oriented working conditions

  • Promote health and well-being of employees

  • Support and improve employability

  • Provide options for early exit and/or a smooth transition to retirement

  • Rejuvenate the workforce


  • Obligatory analysis of age structure (in cooperation with works council)

  • Implement respective measures (e.g. health promotion, training, peak load reduction, age mixed teams, organisation of working time, redeployment)

  • Initiative for early exit/smooth transition to retirement

  • Fund “Demographic change”

  • Evaluation

„Good practice in corporate age-management“ - Sozial-Holding Mönchengladbach

  • Sozial-Holding der Stadt Mönchengladbach GmbH coordinates community care services for the elderly and other care services.

  • It employs approximately 900 people, just under 600 of whom (93.6 per cent women) provide care and nursing services to some 580 residents.

  • Around 35% of the employees are over 50 years of age (average age 44 years)

  • By 2014 this proportion will rise up to 50%, (2019 /57%)By 2019 233 people (25.2%) will age-related leave the company

Examples of Implementation I

Starting Point

Demographic analysis of company (age structure, fluctuation, disability rates and participation in continuing education…)

… to sensibilize managers and employees about demographic changes

Heath Promotion

  • „Health Steering Committee“ develops the company's overall health promotion goals, interventions and prevention measures.  

  • systematic analysis of workforce's health status + information collected by groups of specially designated non-executive staff across the organization ("health circles").

  • variety of trainings, e.g. measures on preventing work overload or stress-related illnesses, medical massages, smoking cessation training, nutrition and back training courses, subsidized gym memberships, and ergonomic alterations

Examples of Implementation II

Flexible Work Arrangements

  • annual working time accounts. => Flexitime has reduced employees absences.

  • flexible working hours, aligned to individual family-working life

  • individual interviews with employees who return to work after an extended leave of absence because of illness to determine occupational factors in the employee's indisposition

  • Older employees, that (for various reasons) have only been working part-time are being preferentially offered full-time-positions (“second career”).

Examples of Implementation

Lifelong Learning and Training

  • training opportunities open to all age groups and qualification levels

  • older employees are encouraged to participate in training programs to change career tracks (re-employment and full time work also in higher age).

  • additional course program specifically designed for 50+ staff. This program includes classes in holistic mnemonic training, the psychological and financial aspects of the transition to retirement, changes in family life as well as volunteer activities.

  • knowleadge transfer with mentoring program from older to younger employees

Factors of sucess / results

  • Positive correlation of age management measures and job satisfaction & working satisfaction/ atmosphere

  • Flexible working arrangements lead to a higher productity and higher job satisfaction

  • Target oriented health management measures lead to individual better working productity and lower sickness absent rate/ absenteeism

  • LLL as a sucess factor for a better individual coping within this difficult business field (care sector, especially women)


  • The high potential of age management measures of most companies is far untapped, especially among small and medium enterprises. There is still considerable room for improvement.

  • Investments in target-group oriented, performance-sustaining measures and a respectful corporate culture to older employees pays off for workers and companies in terms of a higher job satisfaction and a higher subjective performance.

  • Companies should ensure that the measures will be appreciated by target groups - "Do good and talk about it"

Workability, employability and productivity of older workers“ – recent results from German work sciences

  • Change in dimensions of vocational performance

  • Main risk factors of workability/productivity

  • Main promoters of workability/productivity

What do we know about workability/productivity in later working life ?

  • Constancy during the process of ageing.

  • No automatismn between ageing and declining productivity.

  • Direction of development highly dependent on the cumulative effects of both promoters as well as risk factors during the entire working life course („career development“, cumulated effects).

  • Strong dependency on the kind of work a person has been done/is doing in the past/currently.

Assumedinterdependencybetweenage and productivity in workinglife







Source: Börsch-Supan, u.a., Altern und Produktivität: Zum Stand der Forschung, MEA 2005

Increase of relevant dimensions of vocational performance in the process of ageing

  • Experience

  • Job satisfaction

  • Ability to solve conflicts

  • Company related knowledge

  • Customer orientation

  • Consciousness of quality / security awareness

  • Strategic thinking and acting

  • Preparedness to invest into his/her own employability (eg. health promotion, updating of skills)

Constancy of relevant dimensions of vocational performance in the process of ageing

  • Ability to decide

  • Orientation towards coporate goals and vocational performance

  • Crystalline intelligence

  • Long term memory

Decline of relevant dimensions of vocational performance in the process of ageing

  • Ability to learn (due to “disuse-effects”)

  • Ability of delegation

  • Co-operativeness

  • Preparedness of being risky

  • Flexibility and mobility (can be trained)

  • Visual /auditory abilities

  • Muscle power

  • Fluid intelligence

  • Short term memory

  • Difficulties in adapting quickly to modern ICTs

  • Ability to react on information/data rapidly

Main promotors of productivity of older workers

  • Experience can compensate physical and cognitive deficits

  • Investment in age mixed teams (full of requirements)

  • ndividual working time flexibility (according to work-life-balance)

  • Age friendly ergonomics (work places)

  • Specific task-oriented further education

  • Age friendly and demographic sensitive company culture

  • Age sensitive attitudes of superior and personal environment

  • High appreciation of age diversity

  • Stimulating work enviroment

Main risk factors for productivity of older workers

  • Corporate age discrimination

  • Age-unfriendly prejudices

  • Unflexible organization of work (e.g. tayloristic work routines, permanent work routines)

  • Unflexible work schedules

  • Negative ergonomics

  • Monotone and /or permanent work routines

  • Negative enviromental factors e.g. heatness, noise, bad lighting, shift work

    Risk factors and promotors of productivity of older workers can be influenced by corporate age management

Dimensions of corporate age management







to retirement






of working time




ergonomics and

job design

Selected instruments

Basic assumptions of the 6th Federal report on senior citizens in Germany (2010) I

  • Corporate level to be the most significant level to invest into the employability of older workers

  • True “business reasons” the decisive motivating factors for companies to change age-management practices

  • Corporate demand for labour the determining factor for the employment prospects of job seekers of all ages

Basic assumptions of the 6th Federal report on senior citizens in Germany (2010) II

  • Corporate demands placed on the human capital of all age groups rising, above all in the following areas

  • Vocational and job-related flexibility and mobility

  • Flexible accommodation of variations in working hours, forms and organisation of work

  • Increasing significance of higher formal qualifications

  • Ability for knowledge-intensive, independently organised and decentralized work in networks

  • Readiness for advanced vocational training

  • Higher psychological resilience

Core recommendations of the 6th Federal report on senior citizens in Germany (2010)

  • Corporate age-management as a tool to invest into the employability of an ageing workforce

  • Extension of collective demographic bargaining

  • Life-cycle oriented personnel policies“A lifecycle-oriented personnel policy means a human resources management system that is strategically adapted to the needs of employees in the course of their work cycles and lifecycles and “covers all stages of life from choice of occupation to retirement. Necessary is a total different view of employment biography and not a view exclusively on older worker/chronological age”)

„Lifecycle orientied personnel policy“ ?

“A lifecycle-oriented personnel policy means a human resources management system that is strategically adapted to the needs of employees in the course of their work cycles and lifecycles and “covers all stages of life from choice of occupation to retirement. ... It is true that such a lifecycle-oriented human resources management system cannot altogether dispense with – at least approximate – age limits. ... Such systems make it easier to avoid rigid and consequently counter-productive categorisation according to the chronological age, which can also hardly be justified by scientific facts, and instead adapt human resources policy measures more closely to the individual occupational cycles and lifecycles of the employees, which, by the way, have recently become much more variable”.

Source: 6th Federal report on senior citizens in Germany 2010

5 life cycles relevant for corporate „lifecycle oriented personnel policies“

  • Occupational lifecycle (from choice of occupation to retirement)

  • Corporate lifecycle (relating to the time from joining to leaving a company)

  • Job-related lifecycle (from taking up to leaving a position)

  • Family lifecycle (from parenting to care-giving to parents/dependants)

  • Biosocial lifecycle (orientation on “age-related” changes in performance)

    Source: 6th Federal report on senior citizens in Germany 2010

Instruments of a corporate „lifecycle orientied personnel policy“

  • Training and encouragement of young talents

  • Permanent career development

  • Promotion of mobility

  • Promotion and protection of skills

  • „Lifelong learning“

  • Measures to reorganize working time over the life course

  • Promotion of reconciling work and family (including eldercare)

  • Knowledge transfer and creating a „knowledge culture“

  • Preventive health promotion and protection

  • Creating a new culture and new models of in-corporate images of age

Measures to preserve workability of older workers from business´ and employee´s perspective

Self-assessment of older workers in terms of working longer, depending on the number of age management measures provided

Age Management measures

or more

Yes, but only by adapting job demands and working conditions



Source: GfK/RSBC/FfG; n= 3.107

BMW Group – „Today for tomorrow“

  • BMW launched the program “Today for Tomorrow”, a holistic and cross-cutting approach

  • A production plant in Dingolfing was staffed with 2017 age structure and specifically unemployed older job seekers were targeted

Source::BMW Group, 2011

Source::BMW Group, 2011

Source::BMW Group, 2011

Examples of Implementation I

Ergonomics/Technical Organization

  • Ergonomic Workstation analysis with ABA Tech.

  • Ergonomic optimization of the assembly process as well as the Material Lineside Layout (in cooperation with university)

  • Creation of sitting workstations for temporary relief (height adjustment tables to fit different heights, wood flooring)

    Health & Prevention

  • Training on aging and health via a workshop called „Biological Age“.

  • Producing an individual health plan with individual targets.

  • More attention and focus on individual weak points (movement, nutrition, mental fitness…) in context of group meetings.

  • Development of workstation specific exercises in order to offer the possibility of relief to the associates.

Examples of Implementation II

Work Structure.

  • Development and implementation of stress and strains rotation plan

    Working Time Organization

  • Later early shift start time on Mondays in order to reduce impact of changing from late to early shift

  • 10 minutes of the personal allowance to be used as collective break time

    Management and Motivation

  • Work Ability Index

  • Participation of the Management Team in an „Age Management“ seminar.

  • Integration of the associates into the optimization processes in their workstation.




  • Increase of productivity

Highest product quality since beginning of the project



  • The process and work station optimization contributed to improvements in productivity and quality targets and also for the improvement of ergonomics in the Work Station.

  • High quality and productivity requirements can also be achieved with an average older workforce with the appropriate adjustments to the working systems

  • Roll out to other plants (e.g. Munich, Leipzig) and administration in process

Thank you for your attention!

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Naegele

Institute of Gerontology at TU Dortmund

Evinger Platz 13

44339 Dortmund


fon +49 (0) 231 - 72 84 88 – 10

fax  +49 (0) 231 - 72 84 88 – 55


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