April 18, 2011

GERMANY: Workers' productivity rises with age, all the way up to retirement, say researchers

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LONDON / The Telegraph / News / April 18, 2011

Older workers 'as productive as younger ones, according to research which overturns the stereotype that more mature employees are "past their best".



In fact, "productivity rises with age all the way up to retirement", found the study of German production line workers in a Mercedes-Benz truck factory.

They make fewer serious mistakes and are able to cope better when things do go wrong.

The authors of the report said the findings were "striking" because jobs like the ones they studied relied on "physical strength, dexterity and agility - which tend to decline with age".

While older workers do make more minor mistakes "perhaps due to declining physical attributes", the authors of the study suggested that the "negative effects of ageing" were "outweighed by the positive effects, such as the ability to cope when things go wrong".

They continued: "They hardly make any severe errors - perhaps due to more experience."

The study authors, Axel Börsch-Supan (left) , director of the Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging, and Matthias Weiss (below, right), of the same organisation, said the findings "cast doubt" on economists' fears that Western countries will become less productive as their populations age. They also contradicted the "widespread and implicit" assumption that older workers were less productive, which was "often used as a motivation for early retirement policies".

They will present their research this week at the annual meeting of the Royal Economic Society at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The study follows statistics that show more people in Britain than ever before are working past the age of retirement.

Nearly one in eight, or 11.7 per cent of men aged 65 or over, and 12.3 per cent of women aged 60 or over is still working, according to the Office for National Statistics figures, released in February.

They have risen from rates of between seven and eight per cent throughout the 1990s.

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