An Aging Workforce: The Contribution of Work, Industrial, and Organizational Psychology
Reading many chapters of this book, starting from the introduction, it is possible to find strong evidence that the relationship between age and work is evolving, and further, that large changes are expected in the near future (20-30 years). This is true not only for the older generation of workers, but also for the younger, as shown in the chapter of Peiró, Hernández, and Ramos in this volume. The demographic transition, with two main global phenomena (reduction of birth rates and improvement of life expectancy), is now affecting the so-called advanced economies (USA, Japan, Europe) (Phillips & Siu, 2012). But it is also expected that the next 20 years will unsettle the developing economies such as China, Brazil, and Eastern Europe (Kinsella & He, 2009). We are at the leading edge of a global change that requires the intervention of a global science able to transfer knowledge from one context to another (Truxillo & Fraccaroli, 2014). At the same time, this global science needs also to be equipped to understand cultural differences (e.g., the meaning of working in different cultures), and to explain differential effects of specific norms (e.g., laws related to work and retirement are very peculiar for every country) and the level of economic development (e.g., large economic differences also inside the so-called developed economies, such as the level of youth unemployment or in the employment of people over 55). What is expected (and is already underway), following this demographical scenario, is a drop of the work - ing age population, a radical improvement of the dependency ratio (the
relationship between people over 65 and people at working age), and an extension of the lifespan after retirement. This is the picture that could be derived from demographic research and projections. As a consequence, it is assumed from an economic point of view that there is a need to lengthen the working lifespan and postpone retirement, also with the objective of preserving the equilibrium of the national pension systems. As Skirbekk, Loichinger, and Barakat (2012, p. 63, added emphasis) point out:
What is dominant in some demographic and economic approaches is an emerging “apocalyptic” point of view related to the future. That means building models and predictions on the basis of logical fallacies unleashed to produce the illusion of a valid model (Cronshaw, 2012). False dichot - omies, such as “dependent” (over 65) and “non-dependent” (15-64) people, are still considered in the literature despite the large inter-individual differences within these artificially created demographic groups. There are a large number of people over 65 still working and/or living with their own resources (see Zhan & Wang, this volume). At the same time, there are a large number of people of “working age” that are not working and/or are dependent on their parents (sometimes also over 65) for either financial or family support, or on other social support systems. Moreover, a stereotypical view of aging is widespread in the demographic and economic literatures as a declining process but is an underestimation of the individual capacity for adjustment. Little attention is devoted to the capacity of individuals to proactively adapt and act on the new social scenario, despite the data showing that people are changing their attitudes, behaviors, and strategies related to emerging aging issues. People are ready to work longer, to save more money for their old age, to postpone retirement, and to develop a work career after retirement (Wang, Olson, & Shultz, 2012). All these factors-individual, societal, economic-could be better
understood through a psychological perspective on aging. For these reasons, we have tried to promote with this book an I-O psychology perspective that should be integrated in an interdisciplinary body of research on aging and work, and that also will drive much needed future research.