‘France should make use of older workers’

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a firm set up to form policies for economies across the globe, states that France must do more to promote quality jobs for older workers. The report, Working Better with Age in France, emphasizes that the transition from employment to retirement comes especially early and poses problems for many older workers.

France ranks among OECD member countries as having one of the worst records for the effective retirement age. In 2012, this was estimated at 59.7 for men and 60.0 for women, versus respective averages of 64.2 and 63.3 across the OECD area as a whole.

Between 2008 and 2011, only 55 percent of older people went directly from employment to retirement. “The others experienced periods of unemployment, in many cases for a long time period, at the end of their careers,” it reveals.

Even if the employment of older people has risen slightly in France, as it did in nearly every OECD member country during the financial crisis, the employment rate for 55- to 64-year-olds is still below the global average. Also, in 2012, 44.5 percent of older people were employed, when compared with the European average of 48 percent and an OECD average of 54 percent.

It is above 60 years that the gap between France and the other OECD member countries widens, although, encouragingly, the employment of 55- to 59 year-olds rose significantly. At 67 percent in 2012, the employment rate of 55- to 59-year-olds exceeded the European average of 63 percent and the OECD average of 66 percent.

The OECD claims that promoting quality employment for older workers is crucial to boosting growth and ensuring a financially sustainable pension system, reveals a new OECD report on ageing and employment policies in France.

“The government and social partners must set bolder objectives to allow a growing number of seniors to resume or retain quality employment before becoming eligible to draw full pensions,” says Stefano Scarpetta, OECD Director of Employment, Labor and Social Affairs.

Among its recommendations, the OECD reveals France should:

  • Counter the negative perceptions of older people in the workplace that constitute a major obstacle to prolonging active lives and discourage employers from recruiting workers aged 55 and above.
  • Make negotiated contract terminations close to retirement age less attractive for workers and their employers. This procedure is especially financially attractive for the highest paid and their employers, yet only few workers ever go back to work.
  • Step up the efforts of the public employment service to help unemployed older people to return to work. Ascertain at an early stage how best to assist seniors, on the basis of solid profiling and give preference to the most effective measures, such as intensive aid, job-seeking and subsidized jobs.
  • Consider older workers’ needs in the reform of vocational training. Promote the updating of skills and raise the qualifications of older workers to give them professional mobility at the end of their careers.
  • Prioritise retraining and access to part-time work without loss of pay for employees who will have a personal account for preventing exposure to strenuous work. The early retirement option should be recommended only for workers near retirement age during the initial years of the introduction of such accounts.