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'It's not a burden, it's an opportunity': One fifth of Irish workforce aged 55 and over

Research has also revealed workers between the age of 55 and 64 are almost twice as likely than younger workers to experience a workplace fatality.

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IRELAND’S WORKFORCE IS getting older with almost one fifth of workers now aged 55 and over.

The self-employed are the group most likely to work longest, along with those in public administration. 

Across workers of all ages, those who have poor work-life balance, those whose health and safety is at risk because of their job and those in more physically demanding work are all much more pessimistic about their ability to work in their current or similar job until they are 60 years old.

A new study on the ageing workforce carried out by the ESRI on behalf of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is to be launched by junior minister Pat Breen today.

According to the research, one in five of those who left employment between the ages of 55 and 59 did so because of illness and disability.

A similar proportion left because of job loss, while 7% left for reasons of family care. Women are five times more likely than men to have left early for care reasons.

Just over 50% cited ‘retirement’ or ‘early retirement’ as the reason for leaving.

Fatalities

The research also revealed workers between the age of 55 and 64 are almost twice as likely than younger workers to experience a workplace fatality. 

Dr Sharon McGuinness, chief executive officer of the HSA said this is regardless of the sector in which the worker is employed. 

“Although fatal incidents in most industry sectors are relatively rare, injuries and illness are not and I urge all employers to implement tailored safety and health policies designed with the unique requirements of older workers in mind,” she said. 

Dr Ivan Privalko, an author of the report, said there is considerable scope to increase the participation of workers aged over 60. 

He said “simply raising the minimum retirement age will not build sustainable jobs”.

“Policies that take account of the variety of push and pull factors leading to early exits from the workplace, including the provision of safe working conditions, is critical to support longer working lives.”

Commenting on the results of the survey, Minister Breen said an ageing workforce “isn’t a burden, it’s an opportunity”.

“Experience is a critical asset right now, and one that older workers have accumulated over the course of their careers. Businesses are going to struggle if they don’t embrace older workers and make better efforts to retain and retrain them.”

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