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Participation of older workers in the labour market

Participation in the labour market is high for all age groups in Iceland, including the oldest, up to 70 years. This is different from what we in general see in western societies where labour market participation of older workers has decreased substantially in last years and decades. Participation rate of those 60-64 years old in Iceland was over 80% in 2004 compared to 40% in average in the OECD countries.


In Iceland unemployment among middle aged and older workers is not higher than among other age groups. It was 1,5% in 2006 among 55-69 years old but nearly 3% among the total workforce, based on the labour market survey of Statistics Iceland. Seasonal fluctuations are also less and movement in and out of the labour market is in general less than among younger people. On the other hand long term un-employment is more common among the oldest age group which points to the fact that as long as people over 50 loose their job they find it more difficult to get a new one than those that are younger.


The biggest part of those long-term unemployed from the oldest age group has only finished elementary school and the relationship between education and unemployment is unconditional. Most researches point to the fact that as people get older their participation in continuing education / lifelong learning becomes less. The labour market requires constantly more or new knowledge, and fast technical changes call for more sophisticated continuing education / lifelong learning. Education is no more a phase in ones life but more a continuous process and by lifelong learning each individual maintains his competence on the la-bour market.


Age related discrimination?
In Iceland a committee, which focused on the position of middle age and older people on the labour mar-ket, carried out a value study in year 2004 with the aim to find out if age related discrimination existed on the Icelandic labour market. The results did not give a clear answer, there were few that actually had faced it themselves, but high proportion of participants knew others that had experienced age related discrimina-tion. According to a survey among employers carried out the same year, employers in general donít  see older workers as less capable than the younger ones Ė they are not as often absent from work because of sickness, are more experienced when dealing with unexpected incidents and they  have a more positive attitude toward their work than younger people.


A committee addressing these issues is now operating in Iceland, itís main task is to strengthen the posi-tion of older workers on the Icelandic labour market, by creating more positive discussion, make the image of this group more positive and in general to change the view of people towards older workers. Another issue currently under consideration in Iceland is extension of (re-)training possibilities for older workers.

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