Employers urge greater focus on older workers

Companies should create jobs that match the skills of their older workers Keystone

The main employers' organisation says companies should extend the working lives of older employees to guarantee their retirement.

This content was published on August 29, 2006 - 17:08

The call comes as part of an ongoing debate over the financial future of the country's pension scheme and an expected shortage of workers.

Employers and society as a whole need to show greater flexibility over the question of Switzerland's ageing workforce and be more aware of the qualities of older workers, the organisation said on Tuesday.

Its president, Rudolf Stämpfli, said it was in the interest of the Swiss economy to keep older people at work for longer because businesses would be faced with a shortage of staff within ten years.

Stämpfli said that many employees over 50 had trouble finding jobs. Therefore it was crucial to find ways to make the best use of such a workforce.

He said older employees might have certain physical or intellectual deficits but they could be relied on for their experience, and were often more efficient and resourceful than younger employees.

"It's time to do away with some preconceived ideas," said Stämpfli.

He called for more exchanges between generations and greater awareness from all age groups to advance the national debate on how the younger generation had to pay for an ageing population.


The employers' organisation believes that companies' human resources strategies should be properly adapted to the older workforce.

As well as improving the counselling of employees throughout their careers, it recommends introducing alternative employment practices, including a flexible retirement age and part-time work.

In two brochures, entitled Strategies for Hiring Older Employees and A Guide for Employers, the organisation also suggests abandoning special benefits based on age or years of service.

But the specific skills of older workers should be preserved and developed, complemented by further training, and posts should be adapted to match the individual.


The Trade Union Federation has welcomed in principle the employers' organisation's initiative.

"We understand the brochure is an invitation to employers' organisations in individual sectors to familiarise themselves with the issue of an ageing workforce. It's at the company level that most effort needs to be made," said federation spokesman, Ewald Ackermann.

The unions have launched a proposal to introduce a flexible retirement age from the age of 62 from the current fixed retirement age of 65 for men and 64 for women.

"Both sides want more flexibility. We believe that retiring from work should not lead to any drop in income," Ackermann told swissinfo.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The retirement age in Switzerland is currently 64 for women and 65 for men.

There have been concerns over the financing of the system over the past few years, as the number of beneficiaries is increasing while the number of people paying towards the scheme is on the decrease.

The state pension scheme was introduced in 1948. It's funded from employers, employees and the state.

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Key facts

A study by the think tank Avenir Suisse, published earlier this year, found 70% of more than 800 firms surveyed had provisions in place to keep older employees.
Measures included introducing part-time work, making job descriptions more flexible and allowing sabbaticals.
Switzerland has more 55-64 year olds working per head of the population than any other industrialised country, according to 2003 figures.
Switzerland: 70%, Japan: 63%, US: 55% and Belgium: 27%
The proportion of the workforce aged over 50 in Switzerland is set to rise to about a third from a quarter today.

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