Engineers feel forced into retirement

The worst of a talent shortage on engineers, scientists and IT specialists could be prevented if employers were better to retain retirees. Recent figures from IDA indicate that one in ten unwillingly retired and want to work.

Denmark lacks labor in a wide range of disciplines and industries. This specially applies to engineers and other highly qualified professionals with insights into technology, science and IT (STEM). It is therefore a paradox that every year engineers, scientists and IT specialists are forced into retirement, and who would rather stay in the labor market and contribute.

In a new survey of 702 IDA members aged 55-75 who have left the labor market and retired, a total of 26 per cent say that they would like to return to the labor market and work if the right opportunity arises. If you zoom in closer on this group, it turns out that 10 per cent of the 702 retired unwillingly and would like to return to the labor market.

This is not just two handfuls of people. Numbers from Statistics Denmark show that there are 16,200 people with an engineering degree in the age group 55-75 who do not work and are not unemployed. This suggests that there is a substantial work force reserve among seniors who can and wish to continue in the labor market, but for several reasons are not allowed.

“It is a paradox that while companies are desperate to hire highly qualified employees with STEM backgrounds, a large group of skilled workers with these coveted skills are reluctantly retiring year after year. We simply need to get better at taking care of this part of the workforce. For those seniors who can and wish to continue should have the opportunity to do so. Most of all, for their own sake, and at the same time they can provide shortage relief of highly qualified people with insights into technology, IT and the natural sciences,” says Morten Thiessen, Chairman of the Employee Council of IDA.

“This strongly suggests that part of the labor market has not catch up with the times and the fact that we all should stay in the labor market longer. Many respond that their employment simply ceased them due to age or that they were forced into retirement by a manager who wished to replace them with younger employees. They have then tried to enter the labor market again, but in vain. It is not good enough, and it does not harmonize at all with an inclusive labor market where there should be room for both graduates and seniors. We need much more flexibility in this part of work-life too,” affirms Morten Thiessen.

He encourages more employers to introduce seniority schemes with, for example, flexible working hours and holidays, as the evident solution for those employers who really want to keep their most experienced knowledge workers, and he also calls for a better way to step in and out of the labor market for those seniors who can and wish to work longer.