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One in five employees is aged over 55 and faces twice the risk of dying in workplace

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Conditions: Older workers work fewer night shifts. Stock Image

Conditions: Older workers work fewer night shifts. Stock Image

Conditions: Older workers work fewer night shifts. Stock Image

One in five workers is now aged 55 or older and the number is on the rise.

A new report reveals the workforce has aged considerably in the last decade - and many are self-employed.

The ESRI report, to be published today, shows that almost 20pc of the workforce - or 396,060 people - were 55 or over last year.

Back in 1998, they made up just 10pc of the workforce.

"Older workers occupy a substantial proportion of the Irish labour force [almost 20pc]," it said.

"This share has grown in the last 10 years and become especially important due to a fall in the labour force participation of younger workers.

"Older workers are over-represented in certain industries such as agriculture and private services, and are particularly likely to be self-employed".

The 'Ageing Workforce in Ireland' study also reveals:

  • Older workers have equal or better working conditions than those under 55;
  • They are unlikely to work shifts or nights and have lower levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression than the young;
  • But they are more likely to work on a temporary basis and have a higher rate of work-related illness;
  • Ireland has a higher retention rate of older workers compared to the rest of the OECD. In 2015 the rate for employees aged 60 to 64 was 58pc in Ireland compared to 49pc across the OECD. The rates are highest in construction and agriculture;
  • Private sector workers, especially those in construction and retail, are more likely to exit the workplace early for reasons other than retirement. Public servants are more likely to leave for retirement reasons;
  • Women are five times more likely to leave work early for "family care reasons" than men.

The report says "working lives cannot be extended without some acknowledgement of women's disproportionate role in providing care".

The study, carried out for the Health and Safety Authority, found the self-employed and those in the public sector and administrative workers are most likely to work longer.

Those with longer careers tend to be in secure jobs that are not manual.

Unsurprisingly, those with a poor work life balance, those in physically demanding jobs and workers whose jobs put their health at risk are pessimistic about their ability to keep going until they reach 60.

The research also shows older workers are more likely to experience a workplace fatality than younger workers.

Those between 55 and 64 are almost two times more likely to experience a fatality than the under-55s and it gets worse with age.

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Workers over 65 are three-and-a-half times more likely to experience a fatality than workers under 55.

The authors recommend that information and safety interventions are targeted at high risk sectors like agriculture.

Author Dr Ivan Privalko said there is considerable scope to increase participation, despite the high retention rate.

"However, simply raising the minimum retirement age will not build sustainable jobs," he said. "Policies that take account of the variety of push and pull factors leading to early exits from the workplace including the provision of safe working conditions, are critical to support longer working lives."


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