COVID-19 and the ageing workforce: global perspectives on needs and solutions across 15 countries

Pit, Sabrina, Fisk, Malcolm orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1602-8393, Freihaut, Winona, Akintunde, Fashola, Aloko, Bamidele, Berge, Britta, Burmeister, Anne, Ciacâru, Adriana, Deller, Jürgen et al (2021) COVID-19 and the ageing workforce: global perspectives on needs and solutions across 15 countries. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20 (1).

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COVID-19 has a direct impact on the employment of older people. This adds to the challenge of ageism. The World Health Organization has started a worldwide campaign to combat ageism and has called for more research and evidence-based strategies that have the potential to be scaled up. This study specifically aims to identify solutions to combat the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the global ageing workforce.

We present 15 case studies from different countries and report on what those countries are doing or not doing to address the impact of COVID-19 on ageing workers.

We provide examples of how COVID-19 influences older people’s ability to work and stay healthy, and offer case studies of what governments, organizations or individuals can do to help ensure older people can obtain, maintain and, potentially, expand their current work. Case studies come from Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Israel, Japan, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, Thailand, United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US). Across the countries, the impact of COVID-19 on older workers is shown as widening inequalities. A particular challenge has arisen because of a large proportion of older people, often with limited education and working in the informal sector within rural areas, e.g. in Nigeria, Thailand and China. Remedies to the particular disadvantage experienced by older workers in the context of COVID are presented. These range from funding support to encouraging business continuity, innovative product and service developments, community action, new business models and localized, national and international actions. The case studies can be seen as frequently fitting within strategies that have been proven to work in reducing ageism within the workplace. They include policy and laws that have increased benefits to workers during lockdowns (most countries); educational activities such as coaching seniorpreneurship (e,g, Australia); intergenerational contact interventions such as younger Thai people who moved back to rural areas and sharing their digital knowledge with older people and where older people reciprocate by teaching the younger people farming knowledge.

Global sharing of this knowledge among international, national and local governments and organizations, businesses, policy makers and health and human resources experts will further understanding of the issues that are faced by older workers. This will facilitate the replication or scalability of solutions as called for in the WHO call to combat ageism in 2021. We suggest that policy makers, business owners, researchers and international organisations build on the case studies by investing in evidence-based strategies to create inclusive workplaces. Such action will thus help to challenge ageism, reduce inequity, improve business continuity and add to the quality of life of older workers.

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