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Businesses Set to Age Gracefully

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More employees aged 50 and over will be hired in 2008, a new survey has found.

The European survey by the Adecco Institute - a think tank on the future of work - highlighted that this follows a changing demographic where, in less than 10 years, people over 40 will be in the majority across Europe for the first time in history.

Despite the good news, the survey found more work is to be done by businesses preparing to work with an older demographic. The Demographic Fitness Index (DFX) measures five factors that influence a firm's ability to successfully cope with an ageing workforce: career management, lifelong learning, knowledge management, health management, and diversity management.

On a scale of 100 to 400 points, European companies averaged 182 points on business readiness, with Germany and the UK leading the group with 186 index points each, followed by Italy (182), Spain (180) and France (174).

"None of the five major EU economies reaches a satisfactory Demographic Fitness Index, yet," said Wolfgang Clement, chairman of the Adecco Institute and former German minister of economics and labour.

"But that does not come as a surprise: the goal of establishing the DFX is to raise companies' awareness for the demographic challenges. And this is clearly happening, as shown by the better analyses of age structures, the growing openness towards older employees and a strong commitment to improved education and training."

In Germany and Italy, 60 per cent of all inhabitants will be over 40. The number of 50-65 year olds in the five biggest EU economies will rise by 16 per cent whilst those in their 20s to 40s will decline by nearly 10 per cent. By 2050, the share of people over 65 will have doubled and will make up around 30 per cent of the total population.

In a sign that companies are waking up to an ageing workforce, just over half ranked demographic change as among their top three concerns, with 40 per cent analysing age structures, almost equal to globalisation (55 per cent) and technological progress (58 per cent).

Yet UK firms are less concerned about ageing than European neighbours, the survey also found.

Taking steps to address the issues, 16 per cent said they intend to hire older employees in 2008 than in 2007, and the share of companies who plan to hire fewer people over 50 has decreased from 42 per cent to 34 per cent.

In addition, 69 per cent of all companies surveyed see improved school education as the most effective means to counter the growing scarcity of qualified workers. Just over half say that the skills gap could be reduced by improving the transition from school to work.

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