Late career

We must break the taboo and talk about our late career

Too many people do not plan for their late careers, and a quarter of IDA's members retire when they want to continue working. We’ve got to change our mindset, says the Chairman of IDA’s council of employees, and has a couple of ways to start for both employees, managers and workplaces.

Regardless of whether you want to try out a new field, get rid of your managerial responsibilities, or work shorter hours to look after your grandchildren, it is just as important to have visions and dreams in the last part of your career as it was at the beginning.

We just rarely talk about the last phase of our careers. And we have to put an end to that, believes Malene Matthison-Hansen, chairman of the Council of Employees in IDA.

She has made it one of her most important tasks to ensure that IDA's members have a good late career. This is important because many members end up retiring involuntarily. But also because many members avoid talking to their employer about career planning until it’s too late.

"We need to find a way to break the taboo and make it just as okay to talk about how we would like to spend our last years on the labour market as to talk about our education, our first job and that we now want to be a manager or specialist. And it is a change that IDA must help to carry through," she explains.

Although unemployment is also low for IDA's most experienced members, it is higher than average, and it also takes longer to get a job again. It often comes as a shock to be fired at an advanced age.

"We are therefore very aware of helping the individual member to get back to work - and this also succeeds in most cases. But we also keep a sharp focus on ensuring that employers do not discard applicants based on an unreasonable and illegal age criterion", asserts Malene Matthison-Hansen.

We just rarely talk about the last phase of our careers. And we have to do away with that.

Malene Matthison-Hansen,
Chairman of the Employees' Council in IDA

Employers should help with the framework

At the top of the IDA members' wish list when it comes to their late careers are flexible frameworks and the possibility to work part-time. 

Employers should keep this in mind if they are to retain their experienced employees. Therefore, they must at least set a good framework, so that it becomes natural to talk about the future - also for their experienced employees. IDA's recommendation is that members start planning their late career when they turn 55. 

However, according to Malene Matthison-Hansen, one of the problems is that many companies do not have a written senior policy that ensures the necessary flexibility for the employee. Because by having agreements in place, it is much easier for both the individual employee and manager to raise the issue of an employee’s late career. 

Many find that their manager starts to plan their departure when they start such a conversation. We have to go beyond that, and certain fixed frameworks can help with that," she says. 

"Instead I believe that we have to think of working life as an integrated process, where late career is just another phase. In the years to come, the young people who enter the labour market will make many more demands about, among other things, a reduction of working hours. Why not start by practicing on the seniors, because there is an urgent need?" 

Development is also your own responsibility

Malene Matthison-Hansen knows what she is talking about. This summer she herself made the shift to a 15-hour work week in her job at Gladsaxe Municipality. Not as part of planning her late career - she hasn't reached that point yet - but to pursue her dream of doing political work in IDA. 

" It is a great opportunity that I have been given by my employer, that I can live out my dream here. We have to be able to turn our work up and down all the way through to be able to make it fit with our other lives.” 

Therefore, it is not only the employer's responsibility that we maintain our skills and job satisfaction, she believes. The motivation to do so must largely come from ourselves. 

“It is first and foremost your own responsibility. You yourself must be interested in developing your skills and ensure that you continue to be attractive on the labour market and happy in your work. But it is important to emphasize to employers that development and well-being is also important for our experienced employees, and it is to a large extent something that we at IDA would like to put on the agenda," says Malene Matthison-Hansen. 

The focus on late career is also about equality

Getting senior employees to stay in the labour market is in the interest of all parties. With an increasing demand for IDA members and a large generation leaving the labour market, Danish employers need to be more attractive than a pension payment for their experienced employees. 

It is therefore a paradox that many IDA members retire involuntarily. 

“One in four of our members retire even though they would have preferred to continue working. We must do something about that development. You should only stop when you choose to,' she says. 

Malene Matthison-Hansen believes that many get too focused on financial incentives when trying to keep people on the labour market. But it is not necessarily the most efficient way to retain IDA's members, who have been saving for a pension throughout their lives. 

"Economic incentive is nice, but for our members what really matters is whether they want to go to work. Whether they can combine it with the other things they also want. Perhaps you have grandchildren that you would like to spend time with. Perhaps you have acquired an important political hobby or become a scout leader," she says and emphasizes that a late career can be designed in many different ways. 

It is also a gain for society if more people want to work longer. Especially if it leads to a reduction of the looming shortage of 13,000 graduates in the STEM fields, which we will experience in 2030,  according to an IDA study. 

"Our experienced members can not only reduce the pressure on the STEM labour market. They also have a number of skills that neither companies nor society can immediately replace. That is also why it is important to create good opportunities in late career for the benefit of everyone," says Malene Matthison-Hansen. 

An issue in need of greater attention

In recent years, there has been a push for IDA to do more for members over 55. Partly because the group will grow in size, and partly because of the equality policy, which was also emphasized in the political agreement at the last IDA election, says Malene Matthison-Hansen 

“I think this area needs more attention. A fifth of our members are at that age, and they need to be serviced just like everyone else. 

“We know that our members over the age of 55 have largely had a good working life and that they often decide to retire less than a year before they do, so we are in the process of developing tools for both employees and employers to plan better out of it.”