Too old to work? The impact of age on productivity
Due to the public debate on the raising legal re-tirement age in Germany labor market research has recently focused on an explanation of the low labor market participation rate of elders. In the economic discussion the low participation is pri-marily explained by a supposed imbalance of la-bor costs and returns for old workers. Whereas wages rise with increasing age, the individual productivity seems to fall beyond a certain age. Gerontological research supports this view, since it documents an age-driven decline of physical and certain mental abilities. The study empirically evaluates the thesis of a diminishing individual productivity at higher ages. The analysis is done on the basis of a new dataset for German firms of the manufacturing sector. Using these data the effect of the employee’s age on a firm’s productiv-ity is estimated and conclusions on the job per-formance of workers at different ages are drawn. The performed cross-section-regressions of the years 2003 and 2000 indicate an inverted u-shaped age-productivity-profile. The 25-44 year olds turn out to be the most productive, the share of the over 44 year old workers seems to dampen productivity. However the 15-24 age group makes the lowest productivity contribution. Moreover a positive effect of firm-related experience can be found. Due to elders’ higher stock of firm specific human capital this might at least partly compen-sate the unfavorable effects of aging. From a political perspective these findings sup-port the view, that an increasing legal retirement age will not automatically lead to a remarkable extension of the labor demand for older people. In addition to legal aspects the wage schemes and the actual productivity profiles in higher age have to be linked more closely together.