Taking a clue from Germany, scientists of the Rostock Center for the study of Demographic Change, have reported that the total number of working hours will be soon reduced, if the trend of low participation of the elderly in the labor market continue.
The Rostock Center is a research institution, which works in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and the University of Rostock. The scientists at the institute explained that demographic change necessitates, re-distribution of the works more evenly over the ages of life and it needs to become more flexible.
Using the newly developed Rostock Index, James W. Vaupel, Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), and Elke Loichinger show that as early as in 20 years from now, the hours worked per capita will be reduced by 8 percent, should the few young continue to work a lot and the many elderly continue to work a little. This is because the baby boom generation, today around 40 years of age, will soon constitute the older workforce. An increase in productivity could absorb the reduction in manpower and maintain the standard of living, but the distribution of work would be even more unequal than it is today: More people would not be working at all.
In theory, there are a number of ways to spread the total number of hours worked more evenly over the ages of life. One option would be to increase work participation of people in their 50s, using intelligent concepts of part-time work. Currently, their participation is declining markedly compared to the under-50s. Against the background of people living longer and tending to live healthier, even the over-60s could be integrated into working life to some degree. An even and flexible distribution of work could also reduce the burden placed on people aged 35 to 50. Their work phase, intense as it is, clashes with the time they need to establish a family and rear children. If work was distributed more evenly over the ages of life, then individuals could do more in life: They could combine education, work, leisure, family, and social engagement in varying amounts and according to the requirements of each life phase. Today, however, there are large obstacles to the coexistence of these spheres of life.
In the face of demographic change, the re-distribution of work over the life-course has become an economic necessity. Social science can continue to make a valuable contribution to fathom out the conditions of and obstacles to shaping new life-courses.