The industrialized world is under pressure to change. Demographic trends will require new models for shaping our life at work and working lives. “Now is the time to act”, says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
The global population is growing constantly and is getting younger and younger on average. But not everywhere – industrial nations such as Germany, Japan and Italy are shrinking and average ages in these countries are going up. By the year 2050, the number of working-age people in Germany is projected to fall by around ten million to approximately 30 million, while the number of retirees will increase dramatically. This demographic trend will see a need for social and economic change.
We will have to rethink our healthcare and social welfare systems. Far-reaching reforms will be unavoidable. At the same time, companies must boost their productivity and become more innovative – with an increasingly older workforce. This also affects the German automotive industry, where every fourth employee is already over 50. And in ten years, it will be every second employee. The automotive market is also changing, because the silver generation is making new demands on its cars and has a different definition of mobility.
In an aging society, it is essential that we retain the skills of employees for as long as possible and use the knowledge of the older workforce as effectively as we can. We can do this using intelligent working models that are more closely tailored to the capabilities and commitment of individual workers than at present.
We have long known that younger employees are not necessarily more capable or more creative than their older colleagues. This is where a far-sighted human resources policy comes in with working models that take age into account. Health promotion in the workplace, too, must start with young employees, so that as many as possible reach retirement age in good health.
The “silver age” has already begun, and industry and society are well advised to adapt quickly and for the long run. It is our responsibility to preserve and benefit from the experience of the older generation.
67, HAS BEEN PRESIDENT OF FRAUNHOFER-GESELLSCHAFT SINCE 2002.
With more than 80 research facilities located in Germany alone, Fraunhofer is the largest organization for applied research in Europe. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft employs more than 18,000 people world-wide; a large majority have qualifications in the natural sciences or in engineering. The annual research budget amounts to around €1.7 billion.