Re-employing older workers

Companies take note! Last week, an unassuming 57 year old demonstrated in dramatic fashion, some of the values older workers can deliver. Chesley B. Sullenberger III became a hero when he applied his vast experience and calm to safely guide all 155 passengers and crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549 to an emergency water landing in New Yorks’ Hudson River.


But what real actions are being taken to encourage continued employment of older workers? At the recent Reinventing Retirement Asia conference held in Singapore (Jan 8/9 2009), several country representatives explained what their governments are doing to encourage the employment of older workers and keeping active beyond 50. Here’s a summary;



  • Giving retirees funding to start their own businesses to tap it’s pool of 6 million silver-haired professionals and technical experts. About 10,000 such companies have been started nationwide.
  • Enlist them in leading scientific and technological reform projects.
  • Guide graduate students in research.
  • Retired senior engineer used government funds to start a business manufacturing port machinery. and large-scale steel structures. Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company hires 30,000 workers with some 30% aged over 60.


  • A 25 strong firm MicroTech mixes older and younger engineers and technicians in the same team so that older workers learn new technologies and the novices learn workplace skills from their senior colleagues.
  • Conflicts arose due to different work styles but had to be pro-actively managed.


  • In 1999, the Indian government identified ‘second careers’ as a pillar of economic security. The current official retirement age is just 58.
  • Of the 81 million retirees in the country, possibly 8 million are on-line!
  • The Internet is being used to link India’s senior citizens with new jobs or volunteer work. A job portal has been set up by the Dignity Foundation ( Allows retirees to place their resumes for employers to search. The site is enjoying a 40~50% success with job applicants.


  • Plan to lift the job rate among 55~64 age group to 65% by 2012 (now 57%).
  • Updating employment laws and structures to require employers to offer re-employment to workers at 62 (current retirement age) for another three years. Effective 2012.
  • Older women being encouraged to return to the workforce. 
  • Family attitudes also need to change to allow their ageing parents to go back to work.
  • Barrier free public housing, with lifts on every floor.
  • Government housing playgrounds being adapted to allow gentle workouts for seniors as well as their purpose for children.

The out-take from all I heard from various speakers at the conference on this subject was that the successful re-employment of older workers is a four way intersection of:

  1. Government legislation/encouragement to the business sector
  2. Businesses adjusting the nature of work that will best capitalise on the skills of older workers
  3. Younger staff who must learn to see the value of having senior workers in their midst (SILVER offers training courses to help teams achieve this understanding)
  4. Senior workers must be prepared to accept different roles than they had in the past at possibly reduced salaries

Every day, the population profile of most developed countries ages and the need to keep older workers in the workforce becomes more critical. There are millions of ‘Sulley’s’ out there, if only companies will recognise their accumulated skills and allow them to be leveraged for the good of the business.