Ageing and Labour Markets: An Analysis on the effect of worker’s age on productivity, innovation and mobility

The present study analyses the labour market effect of workers’ ageing. Explicitly, the impact of age on productivity and wages, on innovation as well as on mobility is explored empirically. The econometric analyses are based on firm and employment data from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) and, thus, refer to the labour market of Germany. Regarding the productivity and wage effects of age the econometric results confirm a positive correlation between firm productivity and the share of middle-aged employees (41-50 years old) within the manufacturing sector. Hence, the results provide evidence of an inverted u-shaped age-productivity profile in this sector also found for other countries. Furthermore, age-wage and age-productivity profiles seem to follow unequal patterns. Compared to the group of the 15-30 and the 51 and above years old workers the group of middle-aged employees earn less than a productivity based wage scheme would require. In terms of age effects on innovativeness the micro-econometric analysis again reveals an inverted u-shaped profile. Workers aged around 40 years seem to act as key driver for innovation activities within firms. An additional finding concerns the impact of age diversity on innovation. The expected positive effect of a heterogeneous age structure is not confirmed by the data. With respect to labour market mobility results are in favour of a negative correlation between age and job mobility either in terms of changing professions or firms. The estimation of a multi equation model verifies that expected wages of older workers do not or only marginally increase due to job mobility, so, financial incentives to change jobs are very low. Yet, even after controlling the absent wage incentive older employees still remain more immobile than younger workers. Altogether, these results should not only be of academic interest but also informative for actors on the firm and the governmental level. Both sides are asked to cope with the challenges of demographic change. Only by maintaining productivity and innovativeness until old ages the necessary resources can be generated to preserve an economy’s prosperity even if the share of non-active population is increasing by demographic developments. Secondly, enhancing productivity is essential to ensure employability of older persons and to sustain the size of workforce even in the circumstances of an ageing economy.

14. March 2011

Authors Lutz Schneider

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