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To cope with labour shortages, retailers will have to hire greater numbers of older workers, says ILO report

The ILO Global Dialogue Forum on the Needs of Older Workers in relation to Changing Work Processes and the Working Environment in Retail Commerce will meet on 21-22 September to examine ways in which work processes and the working environment in the labour-intensive retail commerce sector can be adapted to facilitate labour market participation of older workers in the sector.

Press release | 20 September 2011

GENEVA (ILO news) – Over 40 government, employers’ and workers’ delegates from more than 25 countries meeting at ILO headquarters here, will discuss the impact of ageing societies on labour markets in the retail commerce sector on 21-22 September.

The ILO Global Dialogue Forum on the Needs of Older Workers in relation to Changing Work Processes and the Working Environment in Retail Commerce will examine ways in which work processes and the working environment in the labour-intensive retail commerce sector can be adapted to facilitate labour market participation of older workers in the sector.

According to an ILO report Adapting work processes and working environments in retail commerce to older workers’ needs, the share of the youth population aged 30 and under is declining as that of those aged 50 and over increases, particularly in developed economies. As competition in the labour market increases, the retail commerce sector may increasingly need to draw its workers from the expanding population segment of the older age group.

The report says that these concerns are especially critical for a sector known for its combination of high labour-intensity and above-average labour turnover. The retail commerce sector therefore needs to review its employment practices, work processes and working environment in order to improve its ability to attract and retain more 50+ year olds, especially in sales and customer service roles.

To cope with the anticipated labour shortages in the industry, the report discusses good practices that already exist in both public and private sector organizations from which the industry could draw, covering such areas as training, development and promotion; flexible working practices; and ergonomics and job design.

The report also says that social dialogue among governments, employers and trade unions in the sector could greatly facilitate the adoption of effective measures to enhance the sector’s ability to attract and retain workers of all ages in a highly competitive labour market.

According to the report, the commerce sector is frequently the largest, or one of the largest, sectors in the national economy. In 2005, the sector provided jobs for more than 30 million workers in the 27 Member States of the EU. In Japan, in 2010, the retail sector employed 7.3 million workers, accounting for 11.6 per cent of the nation’s jobs. In South Africa, commerce as a whole – of which retail trade is the dominant component – employed close to 3 million workers in the 4th quarter of 2010, representing 22.7 per cent of the country’s total employment.

Tags: employment, older workers

Regions and countries covered: Global

Unit responsible: Department of Communication (DCOMM)

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