Bachelor Thesis, 2011, 64 Pages
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FADA Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency
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The topic of age and employment is increasingly becoming relevant due to discussions regarding the future of the working society in Germany as well as against the background of demographic changes.
These emerging demographic trends, characterized by a declining birth rate, a greater share of older people and an increasing life expectancy, lead to a future lack of younger employees, growing age diversity within the company as well as to older customers and employees. In order to maintain and improve their position in an increasingly competitive market, companies will need to bring in strategies and competencies that allow them to equally develop, remain and use the potentials of all age groups in the company. Up to now, companies have not sufficiently recognized and used the economic potential that in particular their older employees can contribute to the working processes. On the contrary, the up to now existing legal simplification of early retirement together with false prejudices about the achievement potential connected with age discrimination have led to the dismissal of especially older employees in cases of necessary restructuring measures connected with staff reduction. The fact that the older employees’ potentials in combination with the potentials of the younger employees in the sense of a positive age diversity can generate competitive advantages, is however not yet sufficiently recognized. In this context, an age diversity approach will be developed that demonstrates the interrelations in all its facets. Age diversity is thereby focusing on the integration of the various age groups in the company as well as on the appreciation of the skills and abilities of the young and old employees. A main goal is the effective conflation of the potentials of all generations. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to develop respective measures of personnel management and to use them in various fields of action. Which measures are included and which competitive advantages can be achieved out of them, will be explained in the following based on a comprehensive approach
Finalizing, the last chapter will summarize and reflect the results obtained throughout the thesis and will give an outlook with regards to a future need for research. Furthermore, some individual points described in the thesis will be picked out and criticized.
As the topic of diversity can be considered as still being at a stage of development in Germany, only few literature can be found compared to the United States of America for instance. The number of authors dealing with the general topic of diversity in Germany is quite manageable. A large percentage of research regarding this field has been conducted to evaluate the correlation between diversity and corporate success. There is, however, still considerable need for research with regards to framework conditions and requirements for developing competencies needed for managing diversity within the company. Furthermore, it should be noted that, although the concept of managing diversity consists of a variety of dimensions, as will be explained later on, the research especially in the German-speaking areas is mainly based on the dimensions gender and culture respectively ethnical background. Only with great distance the dimension of age follows. This is a cause for concern inasmuch as the progressive demographic changes require swift action to be taken, however, the recommendations for actions given in the literature have not been sufficiently examined with respect to their effectiveness yet. The literature, which has been published up to the present, dealing with the topic of age and employment, mainly focuses only on the ageing workforce, in particular on older employees and how to preserve their employability. The consideration of all groups of employees, including young and old which is the case within the age diversity approach, is hardly found in literature. And so, there are only a few articles using the term of “age diversity” in their heading or in the article itself, concentrating only on this topic. This is even more apparent as there is no official definition of the term or the concept of “age diversity”.
A review of the literature on age and work furthermore shows a clear theoretical emphasis on negative predictions. The predominant theoretical models are older worker stereotypes and age discrimination. Another topic that is addressed within this discussion is the potential for positive social relations within work groups in order to increase the positive effects of age diversity or respectively, to prevent negative effects like stereotyping. Summarizing it can be detected that there is still a lot of research to be conducted with regards to age diversity. The basic results of research, given the progress to date, will be presented and explained systematically in the following parts.
2.2.1 Definition of the term “diversity”
Diversity describes the variety that occurs, when human beings differ in many respects, but at the same time also share common attributes (Sepehri/Wagner 2002, p. 124). In this context, a distinction has to be made with regards to visible and non-visible characteristics:
Next to the variable of age, also attributes such as gender, ethnic background respectively race as well as physical disability belong to the visible characteristics (Behrend 2002, p. 7). Among the non-visible attributes are for instance shared values, sexual orientation, education, religion as well as differences in terms of knowledge and skills (Sepehri/Wagner 2002, p. 131). Both attributes, visible and non-visible, are correlated, though. Based on those characteristics, the German-speaking research has identified five core dimensions, according to which diversity is recognized and employees are being distinguished. These include: gender, race, physical disability, sexual orientation as well as age (Vedder 2003, p. 19), on which the thesis will focus in particular.
Applying this, for instance, to the group of older employees, this would require a realignment of the, at present, mainly disintegrative staff policy, which is primarily characterized by measures of lay-offs in terms of early retirement (Grauer 1998, p. 36). An integrative approach on the other hand rather aims at older employees being no longer excluded from measures of advanced training, for instance, but being effectively integrated, i.e. in accordance with their specific and changed skills, into a advanced training concept that is adapted to the different groups of employees (old and young) (Böhne/Wagner 2002, p. 37). This way, the potentials of the younger as well as of the older employees can be retained and used for mutual learning processes.
Summarizing, one can say that all three perspectives include positive as well as negative aspects, however, the third approach describes the most plausible reason for implementing (age-) diversity, as it summarizes the two other perspectives in terms of combining both moral and economic aspects. Those aspects are subject to certain framework conditions though, which will be explained in the next part.
As mentioned before, age diversity is affected by several framework conditions, which a company needs to deal with. One of the main topics within this context is the already indicated demographic change, which only led to the consideration of the topics age and diversity within companies. According to calculations of the Federal Statistical Office in Germany, the number of inhabitants in Germany will drop from nearly 82.5 million in the year 2005 to almost 69.0 million in the year 2050, if the current demographic situation will not change (DESTATIS 2006, p. 5). This is regarded as threat to today’s economic and social system - the decrease in population leads to a reduction of the labor supply and thus to the question, how the necessary labor resources will be retained in the future in order to secure and increase the company’s competitiveness (Kuhn-Fleuchaus/Bambach 2008, p. 33).
employees for reasons of age will eventually result in a loss of specific expertise, experience and even more important, customer relations (Morschhäuser et al. 2003, p. 106). Hence, it will be important to tie up the implicit knowledge of this generation better than before and to transfer it to subsequent generations.
The demographic change clearly demonstrates how important it is to not only take advantage of the younger employees’ potential, but especially of the older employees’ potential. A comprehensive economic policy strategy is one of the key success factors in this context. Economic and financial policy as well as tariff-, labor market- and education policy need to be consistently geared towards growth (BDA 2003, p. 3).
Only about 30% of the people aged between 55 and 64 are currently working (DESTATIS 2006, p. 22). This low level of employment of older workers is the result of extensive early-retirement programs, executed especially in larger companies (Morschhäuser et al. 2003, p. 9). Such personnel strategies were encouraged in particular by socio-political framework conditions with regards to pension and unemployment insurances (Behrend 2002, p. 7). Measures such as the companies’ social plans and longer payment periods of the unemployment benefit I in connection with a flexible retirement age, led to the leave of numerous employees from age 55 (Müntefering 2006, p. 5). For some time, however, a paradigm shift has been seen in the political context. Thus, recently it is tried to point out to the special skills of older employees, for instance through the political “Initiative 50Plus”. This initiative combines the German Federal Government’s activities in the different, relevant policy areas and actively seeks for the cooperation with all social groups. It primarily aims at a change of attitudes - it is more than ever required to consider and appreciate seniority as a productive phase of life (BMAS 2006, p. 2). Additional political measures that especially promote the longer-term ability to work and have been implemented so far, include:
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