Innovation in an ageing Europe: Skills gaps, training and competitiveness

Population ageing and labour force shrinkage are perceived as an increasing risk to potential economic growth and Europe’s capacity for enhanced global competitiveness. In the context of this changing demography, raising the employment rates of older workers and retaining them longer in the labour force has become a policy priority. The projected decline in working-age populations after 2018 is expected to be such that maintenance of economic growth may well be dependent on increases in productivity.

This ministudy provides an overview of human capital, education and training as drivers of growth and innovation. The effect of an ageing population on economies is mixed; there is evidence to suggest that older workers can be both a boon and a dragon productivity and innovation. This ambiguity is to be expected considering the heterogeneity of ‘older people’ and the various meanings of and contexts for ‘innovation’. However, retention of older workers in the European labourforce is a necessity.

The issues of an ageing workforce are being addressed at EU, national and regional policy levels and to a lesser degree at firm level. This ministudy has focused on growth and innovation in the context of retention of older workers in the labourforce; this retention is dependent on tackling a cluster of issues. These include financial incentives and disincentives, implementation of active labour policies and res-skilling, up-skilling and lifelong learning, working time arrangements, work conditions and job design and social infrastructure and services.

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