Older workers have ‘untapped potential’ to fill labour shortages

By 2040 the number of retired people in Switzerland is expected to reach 2.6 million, up from 1.6 million at present. Keystone

Switzerland’s workforce is in good shape but perhaps not for long, according to a new study by the consulting firm Deloitte. Tapping existing pools of talent including older workers and women are key to helping companies meet future demands for skilled labour.

This content was published on December 11, 2018

In its latest future of work study released on Tuesday, Deloitte surveyed 15,000 people from ten European countries to gauge the attitudes of employees on major workforce trends. This included 1,000 people in Switzerland, whose views on labour trends and recommendations for companies are captured in the “Voice of the Workforce in SwitzerlandExternal link” country supplement.

While the Swiss job market has been characterised by low unemployment, high salaries and skilled labour, Deloitte’s study anticipates major challenges resulting from digitisation and an ageing society. It argues that companies will not only struggle to recruit staff with the right skills but also to recruit adequate numbers of people to meet future demands.

+ Read more about how automation is expected to affect Swiss workers

The Federal Statistical Office estimates that by 2040 the number of retired people in the country will have reached 2.6 million, up from 1.6 million at present. The number of people under 20 will also rise, albeit by a smaller amount, from 1.7 million to 1.9 million.

In 2016, more Swiss workers left the labour market than entered it for the first time. If these demographic trends continue, the Swiss labour market will face a shortfall of around half a million workers by 2030.

Rethinking the value of older workers

The report makes several recommendations to help companies tackle these challenges. These include rethinking the value of existing talent pools such as workers who are unemployed, underemployed or part of the reserve labour force – people not seeking work but who are available as well as those seeking work but who are not yet available.

Deloitte estimates that this represents 852,000 people or about 12% of the permanent resident population over 15 years of age. Some 60% of workers who are not seeking jobs but would like to work are women, according to Deloitte. The other portion of this group is people over 55, many of whom have reached retirement age and are already receiving a pension but could imagine working. Women also make up two-thirds of the underemployed.

While extending the weekly working hours, raising the retirement age, or increasing the number of foreign workers could be a way forward, these are too politically sensitive to gain support.

The report emphasizes that older workers have skills and knowledge that are overlooked. They are also more likely to be flexible when it comes to salary and working hours. The study also found that 85% of older workers are motivated at work, which is higher than other age groups.

Other key recommendations include redesigning employment models to consider part-time working, freelancing and portfolio careers as well as encouraging retraining and lifelong learning for employees.

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