In most areas of the world, efforts by older people to participate in work and economic activities, both to satisfy their need to contribute to the life of the community and to benefit society as a whole, meet with difficulties. Age discrimination is prevalent: many older workers are unable to remain in the labour force or to re-enter it because of age prejudice. In some countries this situation tends to affect women more severely.
One worker in three in developed countries, and one in four in the developing countries, is over 45 years of age. Worldwide, these total nearly 480 million, with about one-third being women. Exact statistics on older worker unemployment are lacking but indications are that the rate is lower than the total worker force, but longer lasting and in many cases permanent. ILO statistics indicate that the over 45 age group have the highest unemployment in the manufacturing sector, in the higher blue collar job ratings, as craftsmen, foremen and kindred workers for males, and as operatives and kindred workers in the lower job ratings for females.
In 1995 the ILO reported that within 30 years, 26 per cent of the population of Western Europe would be over the age of 60, compared with 19 per cent in 1994. Because older employees are also being encouraged to leave the workforce, by 2025 there could be only 1.5 wage-earners for each dependent pensioner in Western Europe. The problem is so acute in Germany that in 30 years there could be more pensioners than employees.
In Japan the elderly population will double within 25 years, according to the ILO. However, elderly people tend to continue working in Japan, with earnings peaking at age 55. Those who retire are often re-hired, albeit at a lower wage.